Tributes as Sheffield United fan and ‘tremendous’ football historian dies after cancer battle

Tributes have been paid to a 'tremendous football enthusiast' who made a ‘huge contribution’ to the history of The Beautiful Game in Sheffield following his death.

By Steve Jones
Monday, 28th September 2020, 3:50 pm

Martin Westby, author of A History of Sheffield Football from 1857 to 1889 and England’s Oldest Football Clubs 1815 to 1889, died on Thursday, 24 September after being diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in March 2019.

Martin, 63, who was born in Sheffield and supported Sheffield United, was also a trustee of the Sheffield Home of Football (SHOF) campaign and designed a Sheffield Home of Football walking-tour app in 2017 which mapped areas in the city where football was developed. It has been downloaded thousands of times from users around the world.

David Westby, Martin’s older brother, said: “He was an amazing guy, his sense of humour was completely unique.

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Martin pictured with the long-lost Sheffield and Hallamshire FA County Cup, which he found for sale on eBay in April.

“He was always very generous with his time and his money with family and friends.”

Martin, who lived in Bournemouth, also leaves behind his partner of 27 years, Judith, who he married in May 2019, and siblings, Stephen, 69, and Ruth, 55.

Blades legend Tony Currie sent a video wishing him well when he learned of his condition. The pair had met on several occasions, David said.

David, 71, added: “Tony said some very kind words and was very sympathetic. It was very nice of him to take the time and send that.”

Martin chronicled the early years of football in Sheffield in his book 'A History of Sheffield Football from 1857 to 1889'.

Dr John Wilson, who worked with Martin on the SHOF campaign, said: "He was a really nice, friendly and supporting guy. He wrote the most comprehensive book about Sheffield football.”

Councillor Anne Murphy, a SHOF trustee, added: “It was Martin who instigated the campaign by writing his books.”

A spokesperson for Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world, said: “Everyone at Sheffield FC is devastated to hear this news.

“Martin's work promoting Sheffield as the Home of Football was tireless and his books should be read by all lovers of football history.”

The Society for American Soccer History wrote on Twitter: “Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Martin Westby, who left us all such a remarkable body of scholarship for which we shall always be grateful. RIP, Martin.”

Martin discovered the long-lost Sheffield and Hallamshire FA County Cup for sale on eBay in April, which had been missing for 20 years. He purchased it before donating it to the SHOF campaign.

Alan Biggs tweeted: “This is a terrible shock and loss. I’d come to know Martin well as a tremendous football enthusiast who worked tirelessly for the Sheffield Home of Football project.

"As an author, too, he was determined to champion the city’s history and heritage.”

Martin also ran the Soccerbilia website dedicated to British football magazines.

Greg Lansdowne, author of 'Stuck On You', the history of football stickers in the UK, said Martin’s Soccerbilia website “is by far and away the best resource for historical UK football magazines around.”

He added: “On top of his other fine research into football, he leaves an outstanding legacy.”

You can purchase Martin’s books at www.englandsoldestfootballclubs.com.