Port Vale have said a fond farewell to hugely respected and popular groundsman Denis Dawson, who has died, aged 83.
Denis, from Chell, was groundsman from 1966-1975 when he earned respect and admiration for keeping Vale playing against the odds on a notoriously challenging pitch.
The job was a labour of love for Denis. He was a supporter, having been introduced to the club by his father who was also the club's mascot in the 1950s.
Being mascot involved parading around the pitch with a top hat, rosette and umbrella and, on one occasion, using the brolly to fend off fireworks thrown by unruly Leicester City supporters.
Denis's job at Vale was even more demanding than his father's as he laboured to get games on despite the, at best, limited drainage at Vale Park at the time.
He earned the admiration of current groundsman Steve Speed, who joined the club in 1979 and got to know Denis who was helping Vale out despite having left four years earlier.
Steve said: "He was always there if I had a problem and, if I was a bit down, he always had the right words to say. He was a great bloke.
"When Denis left, the club had just sold Brian Horton, the social club and the land where the Co-op was, so he thought it was a good time to leave. But he stayed on as a consultant and used to pop in every two weeks and have a chat.
"He was always positive and always looked for the best in the team. He wasn't a negative person at all. Ever since he left the Vale he'd had a season tickets and got his grand-kids tickets." Long-serving club secretary Bill Lodey was also a friend of Denis's.
He said: "Denis was a pure Vale fanatic and a very good groundsman in an era when pitches looked beautiful at the start of the season, but were a big triangle of mud with just green corners by Christmas.
"He was a character and an extremely hard working person who loved Port Vale and indoctrinated his grandchildren into going. We are very sorry we have lost him."
The groundsman became well known to the players who regarded him initially with trepidation, then respect and fondness.
Image: Former Port Vale groundsman Denis Dawson inspects the playing surface after a heavy snowfall
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