Tributes have been paid to a former Hartlepool United goalkeeper whose love for the game was only overtaken by the love for his family.
Norman Oakley made 193 appearances during his six years with the club from 1958, with his league games only putting him behind Scott Flinders in terms of league matches by a Pools goalkeeper.
He was the side’s number one goalkeeper for much of his time at The Vic, with his £6,000 sale helping to keep the club afloat when he moved to Swindon.
It was during his second season in Swindon that he broke his leg, and while he managed a third, it led to the end of his professional days.
Norman had worked at the steel works in Norton before launching his football career and started out with Doncaster Rovers.
He had also played for Firth Moor and Wingate Welfare Juniors in his early days, as well as non-league sides including Boston United as an adult.
His passion for football only taken over by the passion he had for his family.Graham Hind
After hanging up his own boots, he went on to manage sides including Horden Colliery Welfare and Peterlee New Town.
The Hartlepool and Sunderland fan, who lived in Peterlee and was born in Stockton, died on Tuesday evening aged 77 after suffering with Parkinson’s disease for several years.
The grandfather leaves wife Margaret, 79, and children Terry, 60, Janet Brown, 55, and twins Colin and Keith, 53.
Graham Hind, whose late mum Jean was Norman’s cousin, counted him as a close relative.
The 54-year-old from Hartlepool said: “His passion for football only taken over by the passion he had for his family.
“He took great joy in later life watching his grandchildren play and I think everyone at some stage played at a good level.
“He never had a wrong word for anybody and he always had a smile on his face.
“Norman was an absolute gentleman.”
A spokesman for Hartlepool United said: “The thoughts and condolences of everyone at Hartlepool United are with Norman’s family and friends at this sad time.”
Funeral details are still to be arranged.