FREDDY SHEPHERD was not without his faults. He was forced to stand down as Newcastle United chairman after criticising the club’s fans and the region’s women in a News of the World sting, he sacked Sir Bobby Robson just months after the Magpies had finished in fifth position in the Premier League, and he bequeathed a mountain of debt when he eventually sold his shares to Mike Ashley.

Yet following his death yesterday at the age of 76, Mr Shepherd will rightly be remembered as one of the most influential figures in North-East life in the past three decades.

The football is only part of the story. As the head of Shepherd Offshore Group, Mr Shepherd built up a family business that continues to employ more than 3,000 people.

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He helped develop huge swathes of land of the banks of the River Tyne, and provided a future for the former Swan Hunter Neptune shipyard, such a powerful symbol of NorthEast industry. His company proved heavy industry can still play a role in the region’s economic mix.

To many, though, he will forever be associated with the period when Newcastle United rubbed shoulders with the European elite.

Along with Sir John Hall, who persuaded him to buy into the Magpies in the early 1990s, he oversaw a period when Newcastle finished in the top two of the Premier League, beat Barcelona in the Champions League and signed world-class players seemingly at the drop of a hat.

Like Sir Bob Murray at Sunderland, he felt proud and privileged to be in charge of his hometown team. Yes, there were mistakes. But Mr Shepherd always made them with the good of the club at heart.