A football loving father who played until he was 62 has been toasted at a thronged gathering held in his memory.

Frank Stocker, who was 69, died on June 18 following a stroke. Though his funeral was private, hundreds gathered at Tudhoe Cricket Club, near Spennymoor, to remember a man who with much reluctance had hung up his boots just seven years earlier.

“A true gentleman, the nicest guy I ever met” said former team mate Stuart Foster.

The Northern Echo: Frank Stocker Frank Stocker

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“He hadn’t a bad bone in his body, just a lovely chap” said Dave Ward.

“The joys of his life were football, family and food and drink” said his son, Adrian.

His family hopes to raise £1,500 in his memory to fund a defibrillator to be carried in the medical bag at Ferryhill Greyhound, an Over 40s League club with whom he spent the last 24 years of his life.

Frank had for two years captained the Spennymoor Grammar School team and had a trial with West Bromwich Albion, aborted when his father declined to sign forms.

The Northern Echo: Frank Stocker, back middleFrank Stocker, back middle

“I think he spent a lot of time there putting in crosses for Jeff Astle, the future England striker” said Adrian.

Though he played Northern League football for Evenwood Town, he preferred life among the grass roots – player and assistant manager of the Cockfield side which in the late 1980s and early 1990s won almost every league and Durham County award open to them.

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Frank, ever fun loving, partially ascribed success to the club’s fines system – “great for team spirit” he insisted.

At Cockfield they could be fined for wearing trousers with turn-ups, or taking shampoo into the shower or failing to turn up at the pub after the match. In the 1993 season Cockfield had lost just one of their 54 games, scoring 230 goals and conceding 45.

He continued the system at the Greyhound where the list of indictable offences was signed by Frank Stocker – “chairman, secretary, treasurer, kit man, first aid manager and reserve striker.”

The Northern Echo: Frank StockerFrank Stocker

He’d started work at 17 as an apprentice with a construction company, stayed with the same employer all his working life and became a director.

At home in Spennymoor, one wall was covered with his trophies. “Every one of them meant something to him” said Alex, his daughter.

Ferryhill Greyhound, having kicked off in the bottom division of the Over 40s League, had won the premier division in the two seasons before his death.

He was also a passionate Sunderland fan and former season ticket holder – “hopelessly optimistic about them, always thought they’d come good” said Adrian. “At least they’d been promoted before he died.”

He’d met Margaret, his future wife, when she was just 17. “He was such a lovely man” she said, “but it’s been a lovely way of remembering him, too.”

Donations in Frank’s memory towards a defibrillator for Ferryhill Greyhound can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/frank-stocker?utm_term=yYGQMNAW3.

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