Tributes as Maddren dies at 49 after long illness

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The Independent Online

Tributes poured in yesterday following the death of the former Middlesbrough manager and defender Willie Maddren.

Tributes poured in yesterday following the death of the former Middlesbrough manager and defender Willie Maddren.

The 49-year-old died peacefully in his sleep yesterday morning in Stockton's Butterwick Hospice as his long fight against Motor Neurone Disease finally came to an end. He leaves a wife, Hilary, and four children.

Maddren made more than 350 appearances for the club between 1969 and 1978, when he was forced to retire at the age of just 26 due to a serious knee injury. But his ability as a player and his warmness as a man sparked glowing tributes from those who played alongside him and later saw his dignified battle against the illness which eventually claimed his life.

The former Boro striker David Mills said: "We go back a long way and his illness has been a tragic experience. But I think he was quite incredible in his approach and outlook towards it. I found him to have incredible courage."

The club's current manager, Bryan Robson, said: "Willie was truly a Boro legend. He was not only a very good player but he loved the club enough to take charge of the team at its lowest ebb when the odds were stacked against him. He will be sadly missed by everyone at the football club."

Born at Haverton Hill on Teesside in January 1951, Maddren joined Boro from the local amateur side Port Clarence in June 1968 and made his first-team debut the following April. He went on to form a superb defensive partnership with Stuart Boam which proved to be the foundation for the club's 1973-74 Second Division championship campaign, when Jack Charlton was manager.

In the 38 games they played together that season Boro conceded just 26 goals as they won the league by a record 15 points, clinching promotion with seven games still to play.

Although Maddren won five England Under-23 caps he never won a senior international call. He returned to Boro in the dual role of coach and physiotherapist under Charlton and was appointed manager in June 1984. But they were troubled times for the club and he was sacked in February 1986 as the Teessiders headed for the Third Division and bankruptcy.

In 1995 he was diagnosed as suffering from the degenerative MND, but he helped raise more than £200,000 to help fund research into the illness.