TRIBUTES have been paid to Ivor Gray MBE, Stocksfield football legend, who has sadly passed away at the age of 86. 

What followed was an outpouring of support from the community for which he cared so much.  He lived on Guessburn and was involved in Stocksfield FC for decades, where he helped coach, referee and organise youth football.

Phil Murray, coach and secretary of Stocksfield FC, was himself coached by Ivor as a child.

He recalled an event from his childhood: “One game, we were playing against Hexham and we thought we were better than we were – we certainly thought we were better than them! Hexham played fantastically well but we won 1-0.

"We were celebrating and rubbing it in their faces a bit. He made us walk around, commiserate and spend time with the Hexham players.

“He told us that they deserved a draw from the way they played.

Mr Murray thinks that sums up exactly who Ivor was. Full of humility, compassion and love for the game.

He was very proud to have coached Fraser Forster, a Premier League goalkeeper currently at Southampton. But success wasn’t everything to him.

In a way, he was ahead of his time. He wasn’t one to leave anyone out, and would find a way to make the game accessible for everybody. He was a big advocate of getting girls into football and making sure they had opportunities to play and it was the participation rather than the victory which mattered to him.

Mr Murray continued: “Personally, by me and my brothers, he was loved for his passion, for his love of the game and that’s the same for everyone who was coached by him. I’d be surprised if fewer than 100% of those coached by him weren’t involved football in some way now.”

“He had this great little back-heel skill he did. None of us knew how he did it and when we were getting cocky he’d bring it out and shut us up.”

The club wasn’t his only pursuit. He ran the Great North Run on multiple occasions and was bitterly disappointed when it became too long for him.

He was presented with his MBE by the Queen on June 13, 2007 for services to youth football.

Michael Donnelly, who now lives and coaches football in Texas, said: “He was one of my first coaches at Stocksfield. He helped me and encouraged me as a player and as a coach, a true gentleman.”

The Chair of Stocksfield football club, Dave McMillan, said: “He was ‘Mr Sociable.’ One of life’s gentlemen, you really don’t see many like him anymore.”

“One thing he loved to do was come down to the ground at the weekend, see the sea of orange [football kits] and say to me ‘doesn’t that look fantastic?’”

The Club want to hold a competition in his honour. There used to be an U-11 competition called the Ivor Gray Cup. They’ve applied to the FA to reinstate it.

“It would be a 12-team tournament, under 7s, 8s, 9s and 10s. We think it would be great to give him that kind of honour. He started a lot of the teams here, it’s the least we can do.”

Mr Murray said: “The most amazing thing is that it’s so much work for volunteers like Ivor and they’re doing it not for themselves. They’re doing it all for others.

“He’s a legend of local football, in terms of personality, he was fun, he was happy, he cared, he really really cared and he was passionate.

“I would just say that I’m very lucky to have met him and really proud to be able to say that I did.”