AN ATHLETICS coach who ‘played a pivotal role’ at Blackburn Harriers has died.

Family and fellow coaches at Blackburn Harriers have paid tribute to Arthur Almond, who volunteered as a coach for middle distance runners for more than 30 years.

Mr Almond, 72, had been in hospital for around a month, where he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease – a progressive condition that damages the nervous system.

He died yesterday morning at the Royal Preston Hospital. He was married to wife Sylvia, and had two sons, Mark and David, who had all been involved in the club.

The grandfather-of-three, of Fir Trees Drive, Blackburn, had battled prostate cancer and a triple heart bypass, but son Mark said he rarely missed training sessions, even when undergoing radiotherapy.

“He was a legend. He was a hero to me. He has given so much to so many people.

“He was diagnosed with prostate cancer about six years ago and received radiotherapy at Christie’s, but he would still attend training sessions.

“Dad would always put the needs of others before himself.”

Tony Wood, chairman of Blackburn Harriers, said: “For the last 30 years he has played a pivotal role in the coaching of the Harriers in mid and long distance running and the success the club has had. He has coached some fantastic young athletes.

“Arthur was a lovely and kind man. People would travel from all over the county to try out with him because of his reputation. He always had time for the athletes, and he will be sadly missed.

“We held our presentation evening last week and we put a photograph of him on the screen and thought about him because we knew he wasn’t well.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this time. We will be thinking of an appropriate way of remembering him in the long term.”

His son Mark, an endurance coach at the club, is planning to run the London Marathon next year for a motor neurone disease charity in memory of his father.

George Kirby, club president, said: “He was a very knowledgeable coach and always willing to learn. He had an eye for spotting talent in young people.

“He had been the centre of our middle distance coaching team for a long time. It will be very difficult to find someone to follow him, never mind replace him.”

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