The man who was manager of the Fairway football club for more than 30 years has died aged 69.
Bob ‘Bobby’ Atkins, of Horley was player-manager of the Sunday League side for 32 years and played his last game at the age of 50. He managed the team until he was 62. Professionally he was a window cleaner in Crawley and surrounding areas from the early 80s and was thinking about retirement when he became ill.
His wife Pauline said: “Two years ago we noticed his co-ordination and memory weren’t what they were. He was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. He fought 18 months a really tough battle.”
Born in London, Bob came to Crawley at the age of 13. Here he developed his love of horses and later met Pauline.
She said: “They rode their friend’s ponies locally. They both became jockeys in the National Hunt races.
“Ron continued, but Bob had an accident that took him out of racing. We met at what was the Hoppers. He spent my 50p on a record I didn’t like. We went to the Fontwell races.”
After his accident Bob put his heart into playing and managing Fairways football club and continued his love of horses with the charity Riding for the Disabled helping children with disabilities share his passion.
He was also popular with the footballers he trained.
Lee Butcher said: “I played for him in the early to mid-1990s. He was very enthusiastic about football. It was very sad when I heard the news about him.
“The only time I have been happy after losing was when his team Fairway beat us in a cup final at Three Bridges. He knew his football and was very good at talking to players.”
Laine Eaton said: “Bob’s style of management was what I would regard as old school. You gave 100 per cent for Bob when you played for Fairway.
“Bob gave so much of his time up for the game he loved. I’m sure that I can speak for many that have played for him by saying he will be sadly missed. Over 25 years with one club says it all.”
Bob also leaves his siblings Ron, Beverley, Georgina, his children Lindsey, Kerry, Katie and Daniel and grandchildren Bella, Brook, Olivia and Maddie.
His funeral is at noon on Tuesday October 1 at the Surrey and Sussex Crematorium. Family flowers only, but people can give a donation to St Catherine’s Hospice or the Injured Jockeys Fund c/o The Martins Funeral Directors.