‘He was a champion, in more ways than one’ - Les Payne’s tribute to grassroots legend Brian Bradley

Brian and Judith Bradley, who were killed in a crash on the M1

Brian and Judith Bradley, who were killed in a crash on the M1

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He was a champion. In more ways than one.

For a start, no one could top Brian Bradley when it came to grassroots football in this region.

Les Payne

Les Payne

And no one did more than Brian to champion the cause of the non-league game in this area, and support its many clubs, right from the parks pitches up to the semi-professional level.

It’s a cliche when someone is lost to us to say they will be sorely missed. Well, Brian Bradley certainly will be missed wherever they kick a ball on the non-league grounds of South Yorkshire and a bit beyond besides.

That’s because he was always at a game somewhere. For example, name any of the many local clubs in the Northern Counties East League and he’d have been at a game there last season - known by all and welcomed with open arms.

He’ll definitely be missed by the footballing organisations he was still working tirelessly for.

In the past week, many have said it was somehow fitting they should have gone together in that fateful accident on the M1 a week ago. What’s for sure is that if they have football up in Heaven, Brian Bradley will find a game and be at it. With Judith tagging along. Not be long, either, before he’s involved in some admin capacity!

Many others are indebted to him across half-a-century, from Sheffield Referees Association to the Sheffield and Hallamshire CFA, who made him a life member in recognition of his work.

Brian still had fingers in many footballing pies. There’s a few holes that will need filling!

Many would have first come across him as a young referee starting out in Sheffield in the 1950s.

Plenty more heard the name when he turned up on Radio Sheffield for a spell in the early 80s with his non-league round-up towards the end of the Saturday sports show.

Photo of former Radio Sheffield presenter Brian Bradley receiving an Angel Networks Special Award for his services to local football from Leeds United legends Trevor Cherry and Allan Clarke

Photo of former Radio Sheffield presenter Brian Bradley receiving an Angel Networks Special Award for his services to local football from Leeds United legends Trevor Cherry and Allan Clarke

He wasn’t a natural broadcaster and it showed. Many’s the time he would have to chop out a chunk of his script because he was going to overrun his time slot.

Likewise with the written word, initially for The Star and Green ‘Un, latterly for the Sheffield Telegraph.

Ask him for 600 words for his non-league round-up and you’d receive about a thousand!

But, as on radio, overdoing it was a measure of the man’s passion and enthusiasm for local football.

Brian Bradley Football Finals, at Mosborough Primary School.'Champions Lound Celebrate their Victory with Brian Bradley

Brian Bradley Football Finals, at Mosborough Primary School.'Champions Lound Celebrate their Victory with Brian Bradley

He was 76 but still had the footballing desire of a youngster. It’s a damn sight easier staying in a warm house on a cold winter’s night than venturing out to shiver at Sandygate watching Hallam or freeze your toes off at Stocksbridge Park! But not Brian. He loved it. I last sat with him at a Sheffield Senior Cup semi-final at Maltby in April.

Still that same infectious laugh and obvious passion for local football.

We talked more or less non-stop. He was enthusiastic about a forthcoming Under 19 game at Worksop he was going to.

It would be a good game.

That was the thing with Brian. They were always going to be good games. And the number of sides who were good sides! Everybody seemed to be ‘a good side’.

At his good side that night, as ever, was his devoted wife Judith. Most wives would be happy to pack the old man off to football for a couple of hours but she was so often at games with him - she probably kept an eye on how many cakes or pie he might tuck into in the boardroom at half-time!

In the past week, many have said it was somehow fitting they should have gone together in that fateful accident on the M1 a week ago.

What’s for sure is that if they have football up in Heaven, Brian Bradley will find a game and be at it. With Judith tagging along. Not be long, either, before he’s involved in some admin capacity!

Within that little fella’ was a big, passionate heart and it beat strongly for the Grass Roots game. None was more dedicated to furthering its cause. A true champion.

n A joint funeral for Brian and Judy will be held at Sheffield Cathedral, on July 22 at noon. Family flowers only have been requested. The couple married in 1961 and lived in Firth Park.

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