Touching tributes have been paid to a man deemed “the father of youth football in Southend”.

Dave Haycock, of St Luke’s Road, Southend, sadly passed away on March 20, aged 78, and his funeral is set to take place next Thursday at Southend Crematorium.

Dave, alongside his wife Yvonne, 80, spent almost 30 years working as secretary and assistant respectively, earning the title Mr and Mrs Southend Junior Soccer, before stepping down in 2002.

Dave summed up his own devotion when speaking to the Echo in 2002, stating that nothing makes him and Yvonne happier than seeing youngsters graduate to the adult game.

Dave’s wife, Yvonne, said: “He was a great man and one who deserves to be remembered.

“He did so much for those kids, and he was always happy to do so. He wanted to open up youth football to all children, of all classes, and he did that. “

A spokesman for the league said: “It is down purely to Dave’s perseverance and endurance that we have been fortunate to hold our League Cup Final’s at Roots Hall for nearly 40 years.

“After stepping down from the League Management Committee, Dave continued to show his interest in the league from afar, liaising between Southend United and the league to ensure that all the players, officials and supporters had a memorable day.

“Dave fought many a battle on behalf of the league with the football authorities in the early days, cutting through endless reams of red tape.

“A fine example of this was the occasion he appealed a County decision direct with the F.A. at Lancaster Gate. Not surprisingly the League won the appeal.” When the league was launched, barely a handful of teams were involved, now more than 300 take part playing on Saturday’s across Southend.

A spokesman for Southendian Manor Youth Football Club said: “Dave was instrumental in the running of our club in the early years and worked tirelessly to promote the club and the grassroots game as a whole in the area.

“Condolences to the family and thanks for everything Dave.”