TRIBUTES have been paid to a former town footballer described as a “gentleman and a born leader”.
Frank Longstaff was a promising young footballer and made dozens of appearances for Hartlepool United reserves in the Wearside League in the late 60s and early 70s.
He later emigrated to Australia where his love for the game continued and he kept a close eye on the fortunes of his two teams, Hartlepool United and Newcastle United, who he also played for in his youth.
But unfortunately Frank, who was born in the Dyke House area of Hartlepool in 1951, died in hospital in Perth this week after suffering with illness.
His long-time pal Paul Gough only met up with Frank last year when he visited Australia and said his passion and love for life has never changed.
Paul, who runs town-based media firm Goffy Media, said: “I’ve been friends with Frank for a long time, since I was a boy, he has always been a friend of the family.
“Frank was one of the lads, he had a huge passion for football and a huge passion for life.”
After moving to Perth, Frank coached a number of teams and also spotted a young Rhys Williams, now playing for Middlesbrough and a regular for Australia’s national team.
Paul added: “He even tried to get Rhys to Pools, but a problem arose with his flights and he ended up signing for Boro.
“Frank was a fantastic footballer himself in his younger days, a tough-tackling midfielder who liked to take the lead, the type of player you wanted on your team.
“I was in contact with his daughter on Facebook who let me know how Frank has been doing since he was admitted to hospital and sadly she got in touch with me to tell me he had passed away.
“He’s going to be missed by a lot of people, he was a top man.”
Tributes were also left on Frank’s Facebook page.
Bill Busby posted: “It’s just not fair sometimes.
“Frank you were a decent man, good coach and passionate.
“Sympathy you your family, so sorry for your loss, I’m proud to have known Frank for as long as I did.”
Meanwhile, Mark Farrell described Frank as a “great coach, a great man and a great loss.”
Bryn Sales also took to Facebook to pay tribute posting: “So sorry to hear the news, he was a cracking bloke to know and have a laugh with.
“My heart goes out to his family.”