A FRIEND of players, fans and managers alike, York City have been mourning the loss of Colin Sanderson this week.
‘Little Col’, as he was affectionately known at Bootham Crescent, died in hospital last Saturday at the age of 75, having suffered from an aneurysm.
After first becoming involved with the club back in 1975, the popular coach and scout grew old with the Minstermen, giving more than 40 years of service, largely on a voluntary basis.
Among the players he helped nurture, who became City regulars and, in the case of some, went on to bigger and better things, are Joe Neenan, Steve Senior, John Byrne, Gary Ford, Andy Leaning, Iain Dunn, Steve Tutill, Steve Bushell and Richard Cresswell.
He was also just as loved for his role looking after ball-boys, ball-girls and mascots on a match day and played a key role in launching and overseeing the Junior Reds Supporters Club when it was launched in the 1980s.
Sanderson’s coaching and scouting duties were often focused on the formative years, proving himself as a respected spotter of first-team talent in primary school pupils.
City midfielder Tom Platt, currently on loan at Harrogate Town, was one of many future professionals that were first brought to the attention by Sanderson.
Platt recalled: “Colin picked me up when I was playing in a tournament for Easingwold at the age of eight or nine. He asked me to come to training with him at York and I started out in his age group.”
Some 13 years on, Platt believes his first mentor was a great ambassador for the club in the local community and the perfect man for the job, adding: “He was a really approachable person and always happy.
“He talked to us kids and the parents all the time. He was the ideal character to do that work because he was very easy to speak to.
“He always made his sessions fun but made it clear you couldn’t cause mischief. He would soon stamp that out.
“He tried to improve all the lads’ football skills and he definitely did that.”
Having graduated right through the ranks, Platt also stressed that Sanderson’s familiar face in and around the dugout and tunnel area will be sorely missed on match days by City players too.
“He was always there as you ran out, wishing you luck, and that was still the case into this season,” he said.
City head of recruitment John Stockton worked alongside Sanderson for the last 25 years and is in no doubt about his old friend’s contribution to the club over the last five decades.
He said: “Every Monday night, come rain, sleet or snow, he would be waiting for the kids to let them in the gym for their training in the winter. He was at the club every Saturday morning as well, so the ball boys, ball girls and mascots could play football in the gym before the game.
“He’d go in the changing rooms with them, so they could get their programmes signed by the players, and every player and manager will have known him going back to the Wilf McGuinness days.
“He also brought so many players in. If you had to count, it would go into the hundreds in terms of those who went on to become apprentices and first-team players.
“There are also many more who played at a high non-League standard. He will be a big loss to us because he was a good servant to the club.”
With Sanderson touching so many lives at Bootham Crescent, it was no surprise tributes also flooded in on social media networks.
Prior to playing in Brighton’s 4-0 victory over Leeds on Monday, ex-City keeper David Stockdale – who went on to make England squads under Fabio Capello – said: “Sad, sad news. A great man, personal friend and a loss to football in York.”
Former first-year pro Dean Lisles added: “Absolutely gutted. Helped me to York as a youngster and always offered his support. Condolences to his family and friends.”
Arran Hudson – a one-time, youth-team scholar at Bootham Crescent – posted on Twitter: “No way!! Very sad news.
“RIP Colin! Great bloke. Did loads for that academy.”
Local football clubs also paid their respects, with Haxby United tweeting: “RIP. Coached plenty of our lot over the years. Lovely bloke.”
Jo Ford, meanwhile, remembered Sanderson’s work with the Junior Reds, of which she was a member.Now married to City legend Gary Ford, she recalled: “He was one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met. He was really genuine and focused on people, particularly us as kids.
“Whatever he could do for us to enjoy the football, he would. He coached me and we played five-a-sides in the gym every Tuesday at a time when it was hard for girls to get coaching. He was a sweetheart and will be missed.”
Sanderson’s legacy will live on, meanwhile, with so many players in the current academy having been recruited by ‘Little Col’.
Nick Cottle – the father of under-12s player Zak – said: “Colin used to train my son and then he was selected for the U9 academy. He never forgot the boys’ names, always said hi and was great guy. He will be sadly missed.”
Sanderson is survived by his wife and two children.
His funeral will be held on Tuesday, March 15 at York Crematorium, Bishopthorpe Road from 11.40am.