THE Newcastle soccer community was in mourning yesterday for former KB United striker Bob Mountford, who passed away after a 12-year battle with colon cancer.
For 30 years Mountford played a major role in developing the game in Newcastle both as a player with KB United and as a coach.
His death came only two days after his Adamstown Rosebud side won the first-division grand final 1-0 over Maitland.
Mountford took over the reins at struggling Adamstown in April 2007.
It was too late to save the proud club from relegation from the top tier, but under his coaching they rebounded with the minor and major premiership double this year.
Rosebud assistant coach Matt Moncrieff had the grand final ball signed by the team and delivered to Mountford at Lingard Hospital on Sunday night after the win.
"The last game he was at was the first semi-final at Dudley [on August 9]. He didn't make it to the second one," Moncrieff said. "He was still barking orders as late as last Tuesday week."
The English-born Mountford began his professional career at Port Vale as a teenager after being spotted by English legend Stanley Matthews.
He went on to have stints with several clubs including Rochdale, Huddersfield Town and Halifax Town.
In 1980 he played in fourth division Halifax's famous 1-0 win over first-division Manchester City in an FA Cup tie.
Mountford's first association with Newcastle came in 1978 as a guest player with KB United. He returned to KB United to play full-time in 1981 and later was the assistant coach under close friend Ken Kaiser.
"He was a tremendous competitor and was the sort of bloke you would want to have in your team," Kaiser said.
"If you had 11 of Bobby in your team, you had a fair chance of winning glory."
Mountford was known for his ability in the air and fitness.
"He was probably, in my time, the best header of the ball that I had anything to do with," Kaiser said.
"He was a good goalscorer and had top engines."
Mountford later used that fitness to become involved in triathlon with his wife Jane.
Outside of soccer, Mountford worked at Cessnock jail for 20 years as a warden.
Former KB United teammate David Jones recalled the time when Mountford organised a match between inmates and veteran Newcastle players.
"Bob played up front for us against the inmates and told us all before the game, whatever you do, don't talk to them," Jones said.
After his playing days Mountford began a long coaching career with the Newcastle Breakers youth team, Azzurri first grade, Newcastle-Port Stephens juniors and Edgeworth under 19s, before taking over at Adamstown last year.
"Bobby would be in the top dozen coaches I know," Kaiser said.
"He had a lot of influence on young players in Newcastle and in Northern NSW, who gained a lot for having Bobby come into their football life."
Mountford was 56. He is survived by his wife and their two children, Paul and Anna. Funeral details were not available yesterday.