TRIBUTES have been paid to a former footballer and one of Manchester United's Busby Babes, who has died at the age of 79.

Tom Barrett lived in Astley for more than 40 years and enjoyed a long career as a professional footballer, after joining United when he was 17 in 1952.

Tom progressed through the youth ranks under the management of Matt Busby at United. He played for the Colts, the A team and made more than 50 appearances in the reserve team.

His son Nick said: "There was a conveyor belt of talent at United at the time, including Duncan Edwards and Billy Whelan."

Following his deployment to the Suez Canal zone in Aden, where Tom served in the RAF for his national service, he returned to Manchester United, who immediately signed him on a full time professional contract.

But there were so many good players blocking his route to the first team, he decided to try his luck elsewhere.

Tom signed with Plymouth Argyle for a transfer fee of £3,000 in 1957.

Plymouth was managed by former United player Jack Rowley, and Tom made 27 first team appearances in the season that saw them crowned Football League Division Three champions 1958-59.

He returned to Manchester, along with Mr Rowley, to attend the funerals of their old friends, following the Munich air disaster in 1958.

Tom also made 36 first team appearances for Chester in 1960-61 and went on to work for Greater Manchester Police, after he retired from professional football.

"He enjoyed the odd pint with friends in The Cart and Horses pub in Astley and watching his grandchildren playing local football. He will be greatly missed," said Nick.

Tom passed away on March 8 and leaves behind his wife Marlene, son Nick, daughter Jane and five grandchildren. The funeral will be held at Newchurch Parish, Church Lane, Culcheth, on Monday at 11.30am.