The past 12 months have seen some giants of sport leave the scene – Soapbox remembers those iconic figures and other personalities, who died during 2011.
In football, ALLAN BROWN, who played for and managed Blackpool with equal distinction, died at the age of 84.
He was never the luckiest of players so far as the FA Cup was concerned, missing both the 1951 and 1953 finals with the Seasiders because of injury.
Brown was an international even before he joined Blackpool from East Fife – the fee £26,500 was the highest ever paid to a Scottish club.
He was a significant figure for Blackpool in the 1950s, and though he did ultimately make a Cup Final appearance, it was for the losing Luton side in 1959.
He had two spells as manager at Bloomfield Road, the first of which was at one of the most turbulent in the club’s history.
TONY KELLOW died young at the age of just 59 – he had a brief, but comparatively successful career as a striker, joining Blackpool from Exeter before moving back to his west country roots.
The town of Bolton was brought to a standstill for the funeral of its favourite – and most famous – son, NAT LOFTHOUSE, a name synonymous with the Wanderers.
He was big, fearless and prolific in front of goal, everything that is missing in the modern-day striker and he had one of the best nicknames ever afforded to any sportsman, namely The Lion Of Vienna, for his stirring performance in adversity in the cause of England in an international against Austria, who clobbered him all over the pitch, but could never tame him.
The death that most moved the football community was that of GARY SPEED in tragic, puzzling circumstances.
Inter-club rivalries were quickly forgotten as spectators the length and breadth of the country united in respect and sadness at Speed, who spent virtually the whole of his career in the top flight and was just about to make his mark as manager of Wales, with so many promising youngsters buying into his ideas and example.
Another player to go a long way before his time was DEAN RICHARDS, the talented Wolverhampton, Southampton and Spurs defender.
NEIL YOUNG is a name that will be fondly remembered by Manchester City fans for his part in helping his side to the 1967-68 League title and even more for the winning goal in the 1969 FA Cup Final against Manchester City.
JIMMY ADAMSON was the captain of the Burnley side that won the 1959-60 League title, a cultured, influential figure during the Clarets’ golden period.
His managerial career was a case of what might have been – he was offered the England post, but thought he was too inexperienced for such a task and Alf Ramsey got the job, instead. And the rest his soccer history. Hungarian FLORIAN ALBERT earned cult status on Merseyside for his superb displays in the World Cup in 1966.
When it came to elegant footballers, Brazilian SOCRATES lived up to that description like few others.
CRICKET said farewell to BASIL D’OLIVEIRA, who came to England from South Africa, where he had been denied the chance to display his talents because of the colour of his skin.
He was embraced and welcomed by England and there have been few more universally loved cricketers, who conducted himself with admirable dignity as controversy swirled around him.
GRAHAM DILLEY is assured of a place in the history of cricket for his game-changing partnership with Ian Botham at that famous Headingley Test against the Australians in 1981.
Dilley was never the luckiest of bowlers with injuries, but on his day there were few, if any better, English seamers.
TREVOR BAILEY was a famed all-rounder with Essex and England – he was a nagging medium-pacer and an infuriating batsman, infuriating to the bowler, that is, as he was obdurate and hard to remove, hence the nickname ‘Barnacle’.
FRED TITMUS was the main off-spin bowler for England for several years – he bravely returned to the game after having four toes removed in a boating accident while on tour in the West Indies.
PETER ROEBUCK, the troubled former Somerset captain, died after jumping from a bedroom window in South Africa, where he had been covering a Test series as a journalist. This month saw the passing of Roy Tattersall, who played for England and helped Lancashire to the 1950 County Championship title as they tied for the title with Surrey.
BOXING lost some notable names, none more so than boxing’s first knight of the ring SIR HENRY COOPER – the grainy footage of his decking the then Cassius Clay must be the most played footage in the history of televised sport.
For years he dominated the English domestic scene before retiring in the wake of that controversial defeat at the hands of a young Joe Bugner.
It is the measure of his enduring popularity that he was feted long after hanging up his gloves.
JOE FRAZIER had one of the biggest hearts in sport, which got its due reward when he won the world heavyweight title at a time when the division was littered with superb fighters.
His fights with Muhammad Ali will be re-run on TV and talked about for as long as the sport continues.
Lesser known was RON LYLE, though if he had lived in the current era, he would have been a world champion.
Australia lost its most celebrated boxer in world champion LIONEL ROSE.
GARY MASON, who only lost once in his carer and that was to Lennox Lewis, died after being knocked off his bicycle.
THE horse racing year saw the death of GINGER McCAIN, the former taxi driver who bought a horse written off by many to a history-maker – that, of course, was Red Rum, who will probably remain for all time the only horse to win the Grand National three times.
Red Rum had bad feet, but his training routine, galloping along Southport sands, seemed to be recuperative.
McCain often courted controversy, but in reality it was all tongue-in-cheek and he liked nothing better than winding up journalists and being politically incorrect.
Not many trainers have two Derby winners, but ARTHUR BUDGETT achieved it with Blakeney and Morston.
Snooker lost its most distinctive referee in one-time Blackpool resident big LEN GANLEY, while the game’s most famous voice commentator TED LOWE was silenced forever.
Rugby League mourned LEN KILLEEN, who came over from South Africa to attain legend status at St Helens.
CEC THOMPSON overcame prejudice to become the first coloured player to represent Great Britain at the 13-a-side code – determined to educate himself, he became an inspirational teacher and a successful businessman.
In motor sport, Dan Wheldon lost his life going at break-neck speed on the notoriously treacherous Indianapolis circuit, leaving a wife and young family behind.
EUROPEAN golf lost its most charismatic figure in SEVE BALLESTEROS, winner of three Open championships, two of them at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
Invariably decked in the distinctive Slazenger blue on the final day of The Open, he was hailed the Car Park Champion in 1979 and then came out on top in his famous dual with Nick Price in 1988 – Ballesteros reckoned that he had never played better in his career than in that final round at Lytham in 1988 – his other Open win was at St Andrews.
The Spaniard brought much-needed drama and glamour to the sport, lifting its profile and the prize money for those that came after him.
He was an inspirational – at times almost manic – Ryder Cup captain.
BBC-TV commentator ALEX HAY, who was behind the microphone for many of Ballesteros’ finest moments, also died this year.