Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders stalwart Billy Whiteside who died at match to be honoured by club

By Angela Rainey

A north Belfast football fan who was "Crusaders to the core" has died suddenly while watching his beloved team play in Scotland.

William Whiteside, known as Billy, suffered a suspected heart attack on the terraces of Station Park in Forfar on Saturday.

Husband to second wife Jackie, he was father to Tommy and Elizabeth, and grandfather to Robert, Ellen, Anna, Matthew, Sophie.

Mr Whiteside had been a spectator at the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup game where Crusaders FC took on Scottish team Cove Rangers.

He had travelled there with son Tommy and grandson Matthew (10) who had been mascot at the match.

Despite being sat next to a doctor at the time who administered immediate first aid, Mr Whiteside could not be saved.

Originally from Sailortown, Mr Whiteside (73) was a third generation docker before training as an electrician.

He later became a publican, running the Swiss Chalet in Glengormley and Mount Inn in Belfast before relocating to Portaferry in 1998 to landlord McNamara's bar until eight years ago.

A popular man reputed to 'know everybody', he was a distant cousin of former Northern Ireland and Manchester United player Norman Whiteside.

He was also once Master of Greencastle LOL 658 and had played in the Onward Flute Band alongside internationally renowned flautist, James Galway.

And despite living through the Troubles, he enjoyed friendships with members of both communities through his work on the docks and in the pub trade.

Son Tommy, treasurer of Crusader's ground Seaview, paid tribute to the "family man" who "lived for the team". He said: "My dad attended the match every Saturday from he was four or five years old.

"Crusaders was like one big family to him - he was a season ticket holder for over 60 years. "He loved to watch them play, he knew all the players and would travel to all the European games on the coach with them.

"He loved to tell us stories about his favourite players especially from 1967/68 and 1973, people like Walter McFarland, Jackie Fullerton and Liam Beckett.

"When he arrived at my house at 6am on Saturday morning he was in great form and couldn't wait to get there.

"He just loved the club."

Mr Whiteside attended his first match in 1949 with his father, Thomas, who was also a Crusaders' fan, to support the team in its first season in the senior Irish League.

More recently he had been looking forward to seeing the redevelopment of the South Stand at Seaview after it gained planning permission three years ago, and would joke how he wanted a space reserved there for his ashes.

Easy-going and carefree in nature, Billy, his son said, will be much-missed by many.

"He never let anything bother him, he was very easy-going no matter what," said Tommy.

"He enjoyed life, he was very happy-go-lucky and had a great attitude.

"He was popular and he knew a lot of people from working on the docks and then in the pub industry.

"He had friends on both sides and was well respected by both Protestants and Catholics."

His beloved club is planning to honour Mr Whiteside's loyalty at its next game.

Chairman Stephen Bell said: "Billy was a lifelong supporter from a strong Crusaders family.

"On behalf of the club, I would like to thank the efforts of the medical and ambulance staff. It's a sad day for our club, but it will be a comfort that Billy passed away surrounded by friends.

"Billy will be sorely missed and we would convey our condolences to our esteemed treasurer, Tommy, and the entire family circle. Billy's passing will be marked appropriately at our next home fixture."

Details of the funeral were not available at the time of going to press, as Tommy and his father's remains were still in Scotland awaiting the registration of the death, but it's understood it will reflect his passion for Crusaders.

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