FORMER Cheshire Football League president Ray Atherton has died aged 82.

Wincham-born Ray, who worked at ICI and Brunner Mond for more than 45 years, projected his passion for football into the community and leaves a lasting legacy on the grassroots game.

He also spent many years as chairman of Winnington Park Recreation Club, promoting the facilities and improving access to sport.

As a boy, his love of football saw him shun Sir John Deane’s for Winsford’s Verdin Grammar School, purely for the fact that they played football.

Ray – who enjoyed a playing career of 25 years – also helped coach various football teams including ICI, Lostock and Winnington Park. He went on to take up a range of roles within the league, helping with to expand to former Mid-Cheshire Football League into its current guise.

From fixtures secretary to finally becoming president, Ray was recognised for his work by the FA for 50 years’ service to grassroots football.

Terry Harrop MBE, of Cheshire FA, said: “He was very helpful to me when I was involved with Winnington Park FC, with his guidance and support both on and off the field and his general interest in football in mid Cheshire.

“He was one of the few people you could turn to for help guidance and support and will be a sad loss to sport in general across mid Cheshire.

“He was the type of person who made things happen – he was superb, he really was.”

Having worked at Winnington Park while an ICI manager in the 1980s, it became a daily joy for him after retiring at 62. He was a director, chairman and finally lifelong member after stepping down due to illness.

His work as a senior engineer at ICI/Brunner Mond at the Winnington, Wallerscote and Lostock sites made Ray a well-known figure.

He was one of the first ICI apprentices after the war and went on to work at Runcorn, Fleetwood, London and Australia.

His family fondly remember trips into Northwich town centre on a Saturday with Ray, as so many people would stop and talk to him – be it about work or football.

A great servant to the Northwich community, he will be sadly missed by family and friends.

Ray died peacefully at home with family after suffering a short illness. His funeral is to take place on Tuesday, January 14 at St Wilfrid’s Church, Davenham, Northwich at noon.

All are welcome to attend the wake at Winnington Park Recreation Club around 1.30pm, following a private burial at St Helen Church Witton.