TOUCHING tributes have been paid to Canvey’s “Mr Football”, who died aged 87.

Tommy Harris, a former semi-professional footballer and manager, has died from complications suffered after a stroke last year.

Friends, family and former players say Mr Harris was a figurehead for non-league football for more than 60 years, and was renowned for coaching young players on the island until his late-seventies.

Canvey Island Football Club, Tilbury Football Club, Mornington Boys and Gravesend are just some of the clubs to have benefited from Mr Harris’s life in the game.

Steve “Milky” Harris, Mr Harris’s eldest son, says his dad’s “booming voice” and “strong character” immediately came to the fore.

Steve, 60, of Clarendon Road, Canvey, said: “He was such a strong character, who commanded so much respect. So many people were in awe of him.

“He lived life to the full working in the Docks, which was a tough job in a tough environment, before going on to work as a financial consultant. Dad worked very hard, and he would do anything to help people.

“Obviously football was a huge part of his life, and he was a unique and brilliant coach. Some of the things he was doing back in the day, which were rare at the time, are now being used today. If he wasn’t managing a team, he would be in some sort of advisory role helping players and clubs as much as possible.

“But his life wasn’t just about the game.”

Mr Harris added that his dad will be reunited with “the second of his great loves in life”, his wife Dolly, who sadly died aged just 51 in 1979.

Despite his strong Canvey connection, it was with Tilbury that Mr Harris’ finest hour in football came.

In 1978, successfully leading the non-league outfit to the F.A. Cup third round, taking on Stoke City in front of 16,000 fans, and eventually going down 0-4.

Even in defeat, Mr Harris’s saw it out in style – wearing a flamboyant suit to mark the occasion.

Peter May, paid tribute to Mr Harris’s influence and believes a generation of Canvey youngsters owe a lot to his experience.

Mr May, a Canvey Independent councillor for Central ward, said: “There are so many players on the island who have benefited from his experience both as a coach and a person, he was absolutely tireless.

“He was also a very popular member of Smallgains Social Club and was so well known on Canvey, he’ll be sorely missed.”

Mr Harris leaves behind partner Jean Collins, sons Steve and Trace and a granddaughter.

His funeral will be taking place on Monday, May 16, at St Nicholas Church, in Long Road at 12.30pm and will be buried at St Katherine’s Cemetery at 1.30pm.