THE Worcestershire football world has paid tribute to Bob Cole -- one of its long-standing servants.

Mr Cole died suddenly at his Malvern home on Monday, aged 77.

He was a Football League linesman during the 1950s and 1960s and ran the line on Stanley Matthews' return to Stoke City.

He was well known for his love of the game and was still closely involved, looking after officials on matchdays at Worcester City's St George's Lane.

"He had three passions - referees who he always represented, the Malvern League and the Worcester Royal Infirmary Cup which he helped revitalise," said Norman Simmons, vice-president of the Worcestershire Football Association, who worked closely with him.

Mr Cole, who worked as an engineer with the GPO and later BT, joined the WFA council as a representative of the Worcestershire Referees Association in 1969 and represented them until 1987.

He was Junior Club representative for the Malvern area until 1991 when he was elected as a WFA vice-president. He became a life member in 1999.

"At the time of his death he had given some 32 years unbroken service to the WFA alone," said WFA secretary Mervyn Leggett.

"He was very enthusiastic about the game and very knowledgeable, particularly from a refereeing angle."

His funeral is at Worcester Crematorium on Thursday, December 6 at 2.30pm.