FORMER players and supporters have been united in mourning the loss of a York City legend following the death of all-time record goalscorer Norman Wilkinson.

Signed from Hull City for just £10 in 1954, Wilkinson went on to plunder 143 goals in 12 years with the Minstermen, placing him three ahead of another late, great Keith Walwyn in the history books.

Most famously, Wilkinson was the youngest member of City’s 1955 FA Cup semi-final side that eventually bowed out to Newcastle United after a replay.

Wilkinson scored twice in a fifth round victory over the mighty Tottenham Hotspur during that run after marking his debut with two goals in a 6-2 victory over Wrexham on the opening day of the momentous season.

With Wilkinson having passed away in his sleep aged 79 on Saturday, goalkeeper Tommy Forgan and striking hero Arthur Bottom are the only two surviving members of the ’55 team known affectionately as the Happy Wanderers.

Ex-City right-back Gerry Baker, who had the privilege of sharing a dressing room with Wilkinson for the final three seasons of the 5ft 11in striker’s career, led the tributes to his team-mate. The pair played key roles during the Minstermen’s promotion from the old fourth division in 1964/5 – Wilkinson’s penultimate season before retiring at the age of 35.

Despite since remaining unassailable at the top of City’s scoring charts, Baker feels Wilkinson probably deserved even greater recognition, saying: “Norman was probably one of the most under-rated players I ever played with because he looked a bit pedestrian but he always found some way of getting to the ball and was magnificent in that respect.

“Losing him is a real blow as he was a cracking, first-class bloke – a superb fellow who I remained friends with long after we finished playing. I can’t speak highly enough of him and he was also so modest.

“Anybody who met him any day of the week would be treated exactly the same. He was always delighted to see you and loved York City.”

Staying part-time during his dozen years at Bootham Crescent, Wilkinson never gave up his career as a cobbler and, as a result, Baker revealed he always boasted the best pair of boots at the club.

He added: “Norman loved football but also loved being a cobbler and never gave up his day job. He always had a decent pair of boots with good soles.

“When we were retiring, players were starting to wear Adidas boots with screw-in studs but his were still a lot better. He would put bars on them in the winter and proper studs in the summer.”

David Dunmore, who returned for a second spell with City during Wilkinson’s final season at the club following stints at Tottenham and West Ham, recalled the Northumberland-born forward’s aerial ability that saw headers responsible for a fair percentage of his record goal haul.

He said: “Norman was always great in the air and would play in any position. If you wanted him on the wing, he’d go and play there.

“He wasn’t a quick player but he was good on the ball and could read the game well with his intelligence. He was starting to struggle when we played together towards the end of his career, but he still had that great heading ability. “As a person, he was a Geordie lad who was always at everybody’s beck and call and wanted to help others.” Former York Evening Press City writer Malcolm Huntington, who cut his reporting teeth watching Wilkinson grace Bootham Crescent, believes the powerful forward’s movement and anticipation remains unmatched.

“He was the best player off the ball that I have seen in all my years of reporting on York City,” Huntington declared. “All his team-mates used to say that when they had the ball, Norman was always in a position to receive it.

“He was an option at all times.

“In hindsight, he would probably have been a better choice for Player of the Millennium than Barry Swallow.”

Former City Supporters’ Trust member Graham Bradbury got to know Wilkinson well on a personal level during his work as a past-players’ host for the club and when organising the Happy Wanderers’ golden anniversary dinner in 2005.

Like others, former Football League linesman Bradbury was impressed by the great man’s humility, saying: “I never heard anybody have a bad word to say about Norman. He was a lovely guy and a great player.

“He was very modest with it too. He admitted to me on several occasions he would not have been the club’s all-time record goalscorer had Arthur Bottom not been transferred to Newcastle.

“He regarded Arthur as the better goalscorer and had no ego at all. He also had a great passion for York City.”

That was probably never better illustrated than in October, 2006, when Wilkinson, living back in the north-east, turned up at Newcastle Benfield Bay Plastics when his former team were handed an FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie at the Northern League outfit.

The humble legend was not there as a guest of either club but was simply waiting for the gates to open as a paying customer. City will hold a minute’s silence in Wilkinson’s memory before tonight’s Blue Square Bet Premier home clash with AFC Wimbledon.