Tributes have been paid to a “much-loved” employee of West Bromwich Albion who died on Boxing Day.
Richard Eades had worked for the club from the age of 14 and had been one of Albion’s mascots, Albi, for 10 years.
The 42-year-old was also a qualified referee and managed Boing FC, the Baggies’ supporters’ football team.
The club said it will “pay a full tribute” to the “much-loved father” and “Albion devotee” before the New Year’s Eve fixture against Arsenal.
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Dave Challoner, Mr Eades’ best friend, told BBC WM: “He was a 42-year-old rascal, he was always laughing and joking, we had a good chemistry as friends and as mascots. We were like brothers.
“We’ve had messages from all over the country because of how popular Richard was.”
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker paid his own tribute to Mr Eades at the end of the Boxing Day show by announcing to viewers Mr Eades had “sadly passed away”.
“All our thoughts to his family from Match of the Day,” he added.
Mr Challoner said: “He would have loved it. To get on Match of the Day is unbelievable.”
Fans also remembered him on the club’s Facebook page.
Eric Thomas commented: “So very, very sad. But you will never be forgotten at the Hawthorns Richard. Our thoughts are with your poor family especially at this awful time.”
Alex Bates added: “Deeply saddened to hear about Richard. Such a lovely man. First met him on an away day coach 18 years ago where he told us he was baggie bird. Have seen him since on many occasions. Such a lovely man!”