Tributes to a beloved coach

Junior footballers across the Fylde coast stopped to pay their respects to a popular former coach who died after collapsing at work.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 30th April 2015, 1:00 pm
Members of Thornton Cleveleys FC Under-10s, which was set up by Craig Rigby, hold a minute's silence to pay tribute to their former manager.
Members of Thornton Cleveleys FC Under-10s, which was set up by Craig Rigby, hold a minute's silence to pay tribute to their former manager.

Family and friends were left devastated after the keen sportsman suddenly collapsed and died.

Craig Rigby was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital but did not regain consciousness.

So far, no cause has been given for his death.

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Former junior football coach Craig Rigby, 45, died suddenly on April 22.

A minute’s silence was held ahead of several matches at the weekend to mourn his death.

His funeral is set to take place at St Nicholas’ Church, Fleetwood, on May 7.

The coach’s 10-year-old son, Jamie, marked the occasion by scoring for the Bispham Junior Football Federation (BJFF) Under-10s Vipers team that his dad managed for two years.

Tributes to the 45-year-old, from Thornton, have poured in since he died suddenly on April 22.

Steve Houghton, BJFF Under-10s Vipers manager, said: “Craig’s presence on the touchline and his shouts of encouragement will be sorely missed by everyone involved with the Vipers.

“He was the founding manager of our squad and we’re determined to create a legacy he would have been proud of.

“His lad played on Saturday and when he rounded the keeper to score our equaliser I have never heard a cheer like it at a boys’ match.”

After his collapse, Mr Rigby was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where he died.

Mr Rigby’s wife, Jenny, was present to watch her son score the crucial goal during the 1-1 draw at Bispham Gala Field on Saturday.

A family statement paid tribute to a “much loved husband” and “devoted dad”.

It added: “Craig will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by all his family and many friends.”

BJFF chairman Andy Griffiths said Craig, an avid Liverpool fan, was a “well-liked and respected family man”.

He added: “We received an overwhelming amount of support and messages from the wider football family on the Fylde coast.

“To get so much support from outside the club is fantastic and quite humbling.

“It shows how people come together at times like this.”

Mr Rigby (pictured) was a squad manager for the current BJFF Under-10s Vipers between 2012 and 2014. He managed them through the under-nines season and most of the under-eights season.

Mr Griffiths, said Mr Rigby, who worked as an IT project manager, had still been involved with the team as a parent after stepping down as a squad manager due to work commitments.

He was previously a manager at Thornton Cleveleys FC, having set up the current under-10s team.

Paul Cooper, the current manager of the team, worked with Mr Rigby during his time there.

He said: “Craig was very enthusiastic and passionate about children’s football and freely devoted his time to encouraging and developing children from an early age at Thornton Cleveleys FC.

“Craig coached children from as young as four years old and was able to teach them the fundamentals of children’s football, at the same time making football enjoyable.

“Craig coached a number of children at Thornton Cleveleys and many of them are still enjoying their football today.

“On Saturday, Thornton Cleveleys Under-10s players and parents held a minute’s silence at the Burn Naze playing fields.

“Our thoughts are with his wife Jenny and son Jamie at this very difficult time.”

A number of other clubs across the Fylde coast also held a minute’s silence before their games at the weekend to pay their respects to Mr Rigby.

Steve Simms, chairman of Blackpool Rangers Juniors FC, said: “It’s so tragic, such a sudden loss.

“As soon as we heard the news, I got in touch with Andy Griffiths at BJFF and said we want to help in whichever way we can.

“We all did a minute’s silence, which was really quite touching. For those few moments, the entire field, probably about 10 games, took their time to pay their respects.

“I personally went over to the pitch where his son was playing, just to represent our club. I got quite emotional reading how his son was going to play that day.”


Tributes also flooded in online, where a Facebook post announcing Craig’s death was shared more than 100 times.

Phil Morley, Latyon Juniors Under-12s manager, wrote on the social media site: “Tragic news, the army of volunteers running kids’ football on the Fylde coast are amazing. So sad to have lost one.”

Kelly Barber wrote: “Such a wonderful gentleman and enthusiastic member of the fund-raising committee.

“His presence will be greatly missed and he will not be forgotten.”

Anne Wood added: “I worked with Craig for many years, what a great guy.

“I am so sad to hear this news, thoughts are with Craig’s family and friends at this devastating time.”