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Tributes paid to much-loved Sheffield football coach with 'heart of gold'

Craig with his wife Nichola
Craig with his wife Nichola
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A junior football coach from Sheffield who passed on his love of the game to a generation of youngsters has died aged just 57.

Craig Crapper, described by those close to him as a 'true gentleman' with a 'heart of gold', founded Southey Wolves FC and as chairman helped the club grow rapidly to encompass 17 teams with more than 200 players of all ages.

Craig with his sons Adam and Kurt, Kasabian Newton-Smith's brother Sebastian and Sheffield United players Billy Sharp and Chris Basham

Craig with his sons Adam and Kurt, Kasabian Newton-Smith's brother Sebastian and Sheffield United players Billy Sharp and Chris Basham

Tributes have poured in for the devoted grandfather after he died on Monday, following a suspected heart attack.

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Richard Lycett, Sheffield & District Junior Sunday Football League's education officer said: "Craig was a true gentleman on and off the field and devoted much of his time to junior football - especially his beloved club Southey Wolves FC."

Craig's youngest son Adam, who coaches at the club along with his elder brother Kurt, said: "Dad had a heart of gold and would give his last penny or his last breath to help anybody out."

The father-of-three, from Parson Cross, played as a centre back before having to quit the game in his 20s due to diabetes, which also forced him to give up his job as a convenience store manager.

Craig with former Southey Wolves player Kasabian Newton-Smith, who sadly died of cancer aged just eight

Craig with former Southey Wolves player Kasabian Newton-Smith, who sadly died of cancer aged just eight

READ MORE: Last smiles for Kasabian as hundreds celebrate Sheffield youngster's life
He defied the illness, which caused debilitating problems with his feet, to coach football at Mansel Primary School, then York County and Parson Cross Boys, before founding Southey Wolves in 2010.

His services to the game earned him an FA volunteer of the year award, and last season the club was named FA Charter Standard Development Club of the year.

Football was about much more than winning and losing for Craig, who cared more about his players enjoying themselves and showing respect both on and off the pitch.

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"Dad didn't just teach football. He taught manners and showed his players the right path. For him, winning trophies always came second to making sure children had the right attitude and took pride in what they did," said Adam.

Craig with sons Adam and Kurt, daughter-in-law Angel, wife Nichola and nephew Nathan

Craig with sons Adam and Kurt, daughter-in-law Angel, wife Nichola and nephew Nathan

"He had some children who came to the club with anger problems but he always said that with football you could teach them to take their anger out on the ball, have fun and play the game in the right way.

"He was happy if they came off the pitch with smiles on their faces, even after a 10-0 defeat.

"It's amazing what he built up with the help of so many volunteers, creating a club the community could be proud of despite the continual struggle for funding.

"He had numerous operations on his feet but he always found a way, even if it meant parents pushing him in a wheelchair so he could be pitch-side."

The community ethos which Craig instilled in the club was exemplified by the way members rallied round to support one of its former players Kasabian Newton-Smith, an inspirational eight-year-old who sadly lost his battle with cancer in 2016.

After his family and Southey Wolves, Adam said Craig's third big love was scooters.

He was a member of Bedlam Scooter Club and scores of riders are set to rev up at his funeral,details of which have yet to be arranged, to give him a send-off Adam said would have delighted his dad.

Craig is survived by his wife Nichola and sons Adam, Kurt and Liam.