FROM his humble beginnings as a flourishing footballing talent in his hometown of Colchester to the heady heights of FA Cup glory, Colchester United legend Vic Keeble led a life of excitement and thrills.

The Colchester-born star is remembered as a hero in his hometown and idolised as a club legend by Geordies for his part in Newcastle United’s 1955 FA Cup victory.

He passed away on Tuesday at the age of 87, surrounded by his loving family.

Vic leaves behind three sons and three daughters.

Former colleague, close friend and fellow U’s legend Bobby Hunt said he and his wife Sylvia were “devastated” by the news.

“We had been due to go and see him, it is such a shame we never got a chance to speak to him one last time,” he said.

“Myself and Vic worked together for Colchester United’s commercial team, bringing in money with their lottery scratch cards.

“He was very good at it too - we would go door to door and he was always so friendly.

“He was also a part of their development team.

“VIc was a genuine and nice person, I owe him a lot.

“He got me started at the club, it was his contacts who got me involved and got me through the door.

“I can honestly say my career was down to Vic.

“We had some great laughs together, he lived life to the full and was always a bit of a joker.

“This is awfully sad news, I respect him greatly as a player and a person.”

“And of course he was some player.”

Vic was arguably Colchester’s greatest ever home-grown player, leading the line and scoring with lethal regularity for the U’s.

During his profitable five-year spell at Layer Road, the prolific centre-forward hit an incredible 65 goals in just 81 appearances.

“He was an absolutely brilliant striker,” added Bobby.

“He was so good in the air - really a natural - and he gave great advice.

“I could never hope to be as good as him.”

Speaking to the Gazette’s sports writer Jonathan Waldron before his death, Vic revealed how he came so close to walking a different sporting path.

“It was a close thing between football or rugby,” said Vic, who lived in Earls Colne for more than 30 years.

“Being a footballer never really crossed my mind at first.

“When I was at Colchester Royal Grammar School I was a rugby boy, a stand-off half.

“I was a bit useful at rugby; who knows what might have happened, had I chosen that instead of football?

“I’ve always believed that playing rugby at school to quite a good standard helped me.

“You dusted yourself down, picked yourself up and got on with it and you never moaned, like some of them to do today.”

Rugby’s loss was undoubtedly football’s gain - and Colchester United certainly reaped the benefits, too.

On Arsenal’s books as a youngster, he was spotted playing for King George V Boys Club in Colchester.

After a spell at Colchester Casuals, he signed amateur forms for U’s boss Ted Fenton a few weeks before his 17th birthday.

The 16-minute hat-trick Vic bagged on his first-team debut for Colchester while still an amateur on the opening day of the 1947-48 season was a sign of things to come.

Another hat-trick followed in his first professional game for the U’s against Norwich A, in the Eastern Counties League.

With his strength in the air as a target man, Vic’s time with the U’s between 1947 and 1952 was a goalscoring frenzy.

“If the ball came into the far post, I would score goals and I was brave - nothing ever frightened me,” he said.

“I had a good goalscoring ratio at all of my clubs and there was a consistency there.

“I was a team player though - I always maintain that I was a much better player for other players than for myself but I still scored goals.”

Vic’s prolific goalscoring for Colchester caught the eye of Newcastle United who in 1952 signed him for £15,000, a move worth £1m in today’s money.

“It was hard to leave Colchester in some ways and it was a long journey but I got to know everybody and everybody got to know me on the sleeper up there,” said Vic.

“When I went to Newcastle, they had Jackie Milburn - I didn’t think I had a chance of taking his place at any time!

“You think to yourself, “I’ve got to do a little bit of something here”.

“But we became very, very good friends and it helped that I had someone like that to aspire to there.

“The people are always good up there and their supporters are incredible - they’re different class.”

Vic scored an amazing 56 goals in 104 league games during his five-year stay at St James’ Park.

He was the only surviving member of the Magpies side that beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup at Wembley and even has a road named after him in Ashington.

In 1957, Vic left Newcastle and joined West Ham United, where he hit 45 goals in 76 league appearances.

Injury forced him to retire in 1960.

He said: “My back was really, really bad and I had to finish because of it - it got so bad that I couldn’t get up.

“It was a bit of a sad ending really - I was still fairly young and I felt I had more to offer.”

After hanging up his boots, Keeble wrote a sports column and sold advertising for a Colchester newspaper for a number of years.

He then returned to the U’s to work for their commercial team before accepting a similar role at Chelmsford City, where he spent 11 years.

Vic Keeble is perhaps the greatest example yet of a Colchester United youngster who grasped his opportunity when it came along.

John Schultz, secretary of the Colchester United Former Players Association, added his voice to the outpouring of tributes to Vic yesterday.

He said: “I was lucky enough to have seen Vic play, have the privilege to have known him over many years as a friend and former player and to see him at the stadium when he could make it on a Saturday afternoon.

“Vic was a great, proud and humble man who I was so pleased to have had as a friend.”

“He will be missed by so many all over country not least at Newcastle United F.C. where he was until yesterday their oldest player to have worn their famous number 9 jersey for the club.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Vic’s family and friends.”