TRIBUTES have been paid to former Leigh kitman and colts coach, William (Billy) Johnson who died on December 27, 2019 at the age of 86.

A very popular man who was well known in the town through his involvement in rugby league and football, Billy began his long association with the club in the 1980s when he coached the club's Colts team.

Two of his children - Phil and Kevin - went on to sign professional forms for Leigh.

Phil earned #HN928 and made 160 appearances for the club, scoring 375 points and also being rewarded with a Testimonial while Kevin #HN1023 made his Leigh senior debut in 1990, playing five times.

Kevin said the family had been comforted by the huge number of messages of sympathy they'd received He said: "The number of people to send their condolences and messages of support have shown the family that not only was my dad well known but well liked.

"It has been a great comfort to us all to know that my dad was a man who was so popular and well respected."

Billy was born in Rotherham but his family moved back to Leigh when he was only six months old. He lived in Mitchell Street and later Wilkinson Street before moving to the long-time family home on Ledbury Street.

His neighbours included the Rowley, Bilsbury, Baldwin and Martyn families, so as you can imagine, rugby league was a common topic of conversation.

As a young man, Billy worked in the pits but had a number of jobs including a crane and HGV driver, window cleaner and bus driver. He and his wife Margaret had five children - Kathleen, Barbara, Peter, Phil and Kevin but despite a busy family life was able to play football to a good standard.

Billy coached the Leigh Colts team during the mid-1980s and actually selected son Kevin to play when he was only 14 years of age. Billy then became the club's kitman at a time when the club enjoyed notable successes such as the Second Division Championship in 1986 and the club's return to the top flight in 1992.

On his retirement, Billy enjoyed playing a number of sports especially golf and crown green bowling.

His enthusiasm for bowling was shared by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The funeral of Billy Johnson will take place on Friday, January 17 at Howe Bridge Crematorium. The service starts at 1pm.

Obituary by Mark Taylor