Tributes to former Baggies winger Geoff Richards
He 'ate and slept' football throughout his life.
Now tributes have been paid to Geoff Richards, who has died aged 85.
He was a winger for the Baggies in his early footballing career, playing in three matches with the first team.
He went on to play for Stafford Rangers, Atherstone Town, Bilston Town and was the player manager at Hednesford Town for two years.
The father-of-one died from pneumonia at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton with his daughter holding his hand on Thursday (8), having been unwell for two years following numerous strokes.
His daughter Diane Hadlington today described him as 'wonderful', 'friendly' and willing to do 'anything for anybody'.
She added: "His life was football. He ate and slept it.
"If you gave him a hammer or a screwdriver he would cause mayhem, but if you gave him a ball he would work magic with it.
"He was a true sportsman throughout his life."
At West Bromwich Albion FC, father-of-one Mr Richards played mostly for the reserves as the club had many wingers at the time, but he played with the first team from 1943 to 1952.
He scored against Luton in his debut game with the first team in December 1946, when he was aged 17, becoming the youngest player to do so for the team at the time.
When he was in his 20s he injured his knee playing football while carrying out national service with the RAF.
The injury forced him to retire from league football, although he went on to play for Stafford Rangers, Atherstone Town and Bilston Town, before becoming the player-manager at Hednesford Town.
Mr Richards gave up semi-professional football to look after his first wife Dinah, who had multiple sclerosis.
After she died he remarried and his second wife, Hilda, died six weeks before him.
They had both been in New Cross Hospital and had been living together in Aldergrove Manor Care Home in Penn Road, Wolverhampton for the previous 12 months.
Mrs Hadlington said: "He fought to stay with us, as he continued to make the best of what he had got right up to the end, with a smile and a wink for anyone and everyone."
She also thanked the staff at Aldergrove Manor and Ward C15 at New Cross for their care.
Mr Richards was born and raised in Bilston.
His father Tom founded the Boys' Brigade at the Wood Street Baptist Chapel in the town, which Mr Richards was a member of as a youngster growing up in Hughes Road.
As an adult he worked as customer liaison at engineering company GKN Sankey, where he ran the company football team.
Meanwhile, he also ran other local teams, played five-a-side matches with other 'old' players and trained youngsters and took them to tournaments.
He was still playing football for fun until the age of 59, when he had a heart attack during a game while on holiday in Great Yarmouth.
Mrs Hadlington, aged 50, of Springhill Grove, Penn, Wolverhampton, said: "I used to work in a pub in Sedgley on Sundays.
"They had a team and they came in one day and the team were really ribbing this one lad, saying he'd been run ragged by this old guy.
"I said, 'That wasn't by any chance Geoff Richards?' and he said it was.
"I was so proud. He was in his 50s and could still give them a run for their money."
Mr Richards' heart attack led him to pursue his love of crown green bowling, which he began playing at least twice a day for both Wombourne Bowls Club and Pennfields Bowling & Social Club.
He also organised an indoor bowling league for many years for himself and others who were suffering from 'bowls withdrawal' during the winter months.
As well as Mrs Hadlington, he also leaves a sister Mary and her family, as well as his son-in-law Paul, Mrs Hadlington's husband.
Mrs Hadlington added: "He had many, many friends throughout the region.
"He was just wonderful. He was friendly. He would do anything for anybody.
"I loved him to bits and I wish we could have kept him a bit longer."
The funeral will be held at Bilston Baptist Church on May 20.
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