Tributes flood in for Ron Gray

A SIMPLE flag draped over a coffin bears testimony to Ron Gray's love affair with Ipswich Town.The club's former chief scout was content to spend his life on the touchline while his discoveries basked the limelight.

By Georgina James

A SIMPLE flag draped over a coffin bears testimony to Ron Gray's love affair with Ipswich Town.

The club's former chief scout was content to spend his life on the touchline while his discoveries basked the limelight.

But today Sir Bobby Robson and a galaxy of Blues' stars from the glory years came to Ipswich to honour a much-loved stalwart who devoted his life to the club.

Ron was a widower and childless, but the players and staff at the club were his extended family, said Canon Henry Lunney, who was due to officiate at today's "celebration" of his life.

"My text will be a time to be born and a time to die which I shall liken to kick off and the final whistle.

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"He was a great character with a great sense of humour and a wonderful eye for footballing talent. The young footballers he spotted and nurtured were his family," added Canon Lunney, a Portman Road season ticket holder.

"We were all richer for having known him and the world is poorer for his passing."

Canon Lunney said Ipswich Crematorium's West Chapel had been specially opened to accommodate the large gathering expected – including Town greats such Allan Hunter, Mick Mills, John Wark and Roger Osborne – along with former Blues boss Bobby Ferguson and coach Charlie Woods.

Sir Bobby Robson, who appointed Ron as chief scout in 1970, flew down from Newcastle to lead the tributes to a dearly loved friend.

During his 17 years at Ipswich Town, Ron was responsible for recruiting top senior players such as former Northern Ireland captain Hunter and a wealth of youth talent including Dalian Atkinson, Mark Brennan and Micky Stockwell.

"Ron had such a great eye for a player and he was a wonderful friend of mine.

"He played an excellent role at Ipswich Town over many years," said Sir Bobby, who brought an England team to Portman Road in 1985 for Ron's testimonial game. "His appointment was one that I'm proud of. He did a super job over a long period at a time when we enjoyed great success.

"We had a very good scouting network that included the likes of George Findlay in Scotland and others. Ron was at the centre of it. It was the envy of other clubs.

"He was a real large as life character."

Players, including ex-defender Allan Hunter, described him as "a father figure". Former boss George Burley and chairman David Sheepshanks were unable to attend but sent tributes to be read out among many during the service.

Hymns at the service included The Lord is My Shepherd and Guide Me, O thou great Redeemer.

Ron died in Ipswich Hospital on October 11 aged 82.

He lived alone at Trimley after his wife Betty died many years ago.

Ron was born at North Shields in 1920 and was a defender with Sheffield United and Watford.

He was Watford coach for a time before beginning a managerial career with Millwall and then became manager with Lincoln City before embarking on his scouting career.

His team at Lincoln included former England and current Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor and Jim Smith the much-travelled manager who is now assisting Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth.

www.itfc.co.uk

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