TRIBUTES have been paid to a Colchester United stalwart who has died at the age of 88.

John Harrison played 249 games for the U’s as a right-back during his six-year spell at the club in the 1950s and notched one goal.

After being born in Leicester, he was on the books of Midlands giants Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa without ever making an appearance for the first team, and joined the U’s in September 1950.

During his stint at Layer Road, Mr Harrison played in the first ever Football League match between Colchester United and Ipswich Town.

A knee injury curtailed Mr Harrison’s career in 1956 and he took up a job at engineering firm Woods of Colchester for the rest of his working life.

He was recently a guest of the club for the home game against Port Vale and his connections with the team continue with grandson Callum Harrison turning out for the U’s under-21 side.

Daughter Sue Smith paid a glowing tribute to her father, who died peacefully in his sleep.

She said: “He was the best father anyone could wish for.

“He was one of the old school – what you would call an old-fashioned gentleman.

“I have not heard a bad word said about him, he really was the most wonderful man.

“Football runs in our family with Callum playing for Colchester now.

“If he was playing now then the injury which ended his career probably would not have been that bad, and, of course, the money was much different than it was now so he needed to take another job.”

The U’s media manager Matt Hudson said: “Colchester United were saddened to hear of the recent passing of former player John Harrison.

“Our thoughts are with Callum and the rest of the Harrison family at this sad time.”

Mr Harrison leave behind wife of more than 60 years Pamela, three children, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

His funeral is on January 4 at Colchester Crematorium. Family flowers only are requested.