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Tributes to tragic veteran Linfield fan

By Angela Rainey

Published 02/07/2016

Tributes have been paid to a lifelong Linfield fan and father-of-four who died while watching his beloved team play Cork City at Windsor Park.

William 'Billy' Ritchie (68) from Carnmoney, near Newtownabbey, died in the North Stand during the Europa League match on Thursday.

An ambulance service spokesman said attempts were made to resuscitate him, but they were unsuccessful.

Mr Ritchie, a retired fitter who previously worked at FG Wilson, is survived by his wife Ellen, son Ryan and daughter's Karen, Carly and Sarah.

He was described as "a regular and faithful supporter at Linfield games as far back as the famous seven trophy-winning team of 1961/62".

He was an avid season ticket holder and had renewed it a day before his death.

News of his passing began to appear on social media late on Thursday as Linfield players and fans from a number of clubs across the region offered their heartfelt condolences.

Linfield captain Andy Waterworth tweeted: "Terrible, terrible news hearing the passing of a Blue man tonight at game. Thoughts and prayers to family. So sad. RIP."

Linfield goalkeeper Gareth Deane also offered his sympathies to William's relatives. "Saddened to hear about the Linfield fan who passed away at the game tonight. Thoughts and prayers go out to the family," he wrote online.

A Linfield spokesman released a notice of condolence on behalf of the club, and more than 140 fans from football clubs across the UK posted their sympathies on the unofficial Linfield Facebook page.

Gary McBride wrote: "Medical staff and others worked tirelessly with the man, so sorry he didn't make it. Thoughts go out to his family, RIP."

Cork City fan Liam McAlister added: "May he rest in peace, and sincere condolences to all in the Linfield family at the loss of a fellow fan."

Mr Ritchie's remains will be taken from his home at 11am on Tuesday for a funeral service. He will be buried in the local cemetery.

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