BRIAN LITTLE has paid tribute to Barrie Geldart, describing him as “a bloke who I loved to bits.’’

Geldart died this week aged 88 and the pair worked together at both Middlesbrough and Darlington in the late 1980s and the early 90s.

They first became acquainted at Ayresome Park. Geldart had moved there from Manchester City during Willie Maddren’s reign to become Boro’s youth development officer, with Little later a first-team coach.

When Little was appointed Quakers boss in 1989, he went back to Boro to recruit Geldart, a former Stockton and Whitby Town forward, as chief scout and youth development officer.

“When I spoke to Keith Agar who let me know the news, the initial feeling is of sadness, but then you start smiling and think of how he was as a person,’’ mused Little.

“We never had a cross word in all the years, he was brilliant.

“Think of some of the lads who came through at Boro, some made the first-team then I took one or two to Darlington with me and even Michael Trotter onto Leicester.

“All that was down to Barry and his contacts.’’

Little was a coach at Boro and would lean on Geldart for his knowledge of the game and the North-East football scene.

“In terms of developing the lads at Middlesbrough, it was great fun,’’ he said. “He knew everybody. Initially we had to have some local non-league lads playing in the reserve team and he knew them all, knew everyone. It was a really interesting spell in life when I look back.

“His contacts were invaluable. Bruce Rioch, Colin Todd and myself, he would feed us all. He did the scouting for the first team, the development of all the young players – he was super active. It was a great start for me alongside him and when I went to Darlington I knew I needed him to help me.’’

Little turned the club around after relegation to the Vauxhall Conference, where they stayed for only one campaign.

While Little was the manager and public face of the club, Geldart was instrumental behind the scenes in shaping the future as Quakers secured back to back league titles in 1990 and 1991.

Little added: “He helped bring in the young lads, did the whole thing, scouting, advised me on one or two players we signed and we had similar opinions on players.

“I’m totally gutted, but I’m so pleased to have met someone and been around someone who was so brilliant for me.

“He was happy to behind the scenes, but was full of life and if he had something to say he would say it. He had the knack of being able to communicate with everybody.

“I just had a great time with him, when we wanted something different his analysis on teams was great. In those days it was written out on pages of paper, but it hit the nail on the head every time with all he said and recognised.

“He saw things in teams I didn’t always see and his knowledge was incredible – a scout who analysed teams for me, a scout who analysed players for me and on top of that we had a laugh together.

“He kept everyone on their toes and you always knew when he was there. It was a great time together for a few years.’’

Quakers’ fomer skipper Kevan Smith saluted Geldart, saying: “Barrie’s work during those two seasons was invaluable. He used to go and watch opponents, then come back with meticulous reports that were a big help for us in matches. His reports were never wrong, he found weaknesses in the opposition that we exploited.

“As well as being a fantastic bloke, he was an unsung hero in those two seasons, and I’m sure that everybody who knew him will be deeply saddened by his passing.”

After leaving Quakers, Geldart worked as chief scout for Blackburn under Kenny Dalglish and Little added: “I can only say I’m honoured and privileged to have met someone like him. He was in the background, but in the club he was very much in the foreground. People in football know Barry. At the clubs he was in, everyone liked him.

“His appreciation and understanding of football was brilliant and his analysis of a player was sometimes cutting – he wouldn’t agree with you for the sake of it.

“Ask a question and you knew you were going to get a straight answer – always his opinion and that is a value. Lots of people will go around the answer and try and be plausible, Barry was straight in.

“You knew where you stood and it was his opinion – we often disagreed, but it was good that he would disagree with me. A lot of people have been around in football who I have met over the years who were respected by manager and coaches and he was one of those who falls into that category.’’

He concluded: “I just had a great time with him, I don’t think we had a bad day together. We lost some games, but we enjoyed it. The Middlesbrough spell and the Darlington spell were fantastic for me, we couldn’t really stop relegation but we came back and he was a bloke who I loved to bits.’’