AMANDA Freeman, the daughter of much-loved Shakers fan Keith Freeman, says she has been overwhelmed by the response to her father’s death.
The 68-year-old former publican developed a stomach illness last Friday and was admitted to North Manchester hospital late on Saturday after his condition worsened, but died nine hours later.
A proud family man, Keith leaves behind wife Margaret, son Darren and daughter Amanda, but was also described by Bury Football Club as a “second father” to many of its players.
As the former landlord of the Golden Fleece and Waterloo pubs, he provided digs to a whole host of Shakers stars over the years – from Tony Rigby to, more recently, goalkeeper Cameron Belford.
“I remember when Cameron arrived he was really shy and at first spent most of his time in his room,” said Amanda.
“But my dad always made sure every player felt part of the family.
“He got me to bring Cameron down to have tea with us one night and told him ‘you’re one of us now’.
“Cameron ended up calling him his second dad and my parents became really good friends with his mum and dad, Michelle and Dale.”
As well helping to welcome new players to the club, Keith was also a season ticket-holder and keen fundraiser, and sponsored a number of matches.
“Obviously, my dad knew a lot of people in and around the club, but I had no idea just how many,” said Amanda, 42, who used to attend Bury matches with her dad.
“The response to his death has been overwhelming. My phone has not stopped, with calls and text messages. And the number of posts and messages on the fans forum and social media sites has been staggering.
“Myself, my mum and brother are immensely grateful and would like to thank everyone for their well wishes.”
Bury football club led the tributes to Keith.
“He was a fan in every sense of the word, and a great friend of the club,” said a Shakers spokesman.
“He will be greatly missed by everyone at the JD Stadium and our deepest condolences are offered to the family and friends of a great Shaker.”
Former Bury player Jamie Hoyland reiterated those sentiments.
“I remember him from my playing days, and more recently he sat just in front of me in the main stand at the JD,” said Hoyland.
“He was such a lovely fellow and I know he will be sadly missed by everyone connected to the club.”
David Giffard, chairman of Forever Bury, said Freeman played a big part in the evolution of the supporters group, allowing them to meet at his pub and pass around a collection bucket in the club's darker days.
“It is very sad news about Keith – he was Bury FC through and through,” added Giffard.
Amanda and Darren will be attending Saturday’s home match against Burton Albion, when it is understood there will be a tribute to Keith before the kick-off.