The family of a Wigan man who devoted years of his life to training up and coming footballers, have paid tribute to a “special person” and a “top bloke”.
Billy Ratcliffe, 54, died on March 10 following a tragic fall in Wigan Hospital where he was being treated for prostate cancer.
The Swinley dad-of-three fought a brave battle against the disease after being initially diagnosed in December 2016.
He was told he had cancer after going to the doctor with a pain in his ribs, which was first believed to be a pulled muscle.
After making an initial recovery, Billy received the devastating news that the cancer had returned just a year later.
Whilst he was back in hospital and receiving treatment, Billy fell and sustained serious bleeding to his brain.
An inquest into his death has opened and will be re-adjourned in July.
Billy’s devoted family paid tribute to his loving nature and his passion for football during a service at St Michael’s Church on Thursday, at which more than 700 of people turned out to pay their respects.
Mourners remembered Billy, a lifelong Manchester United fan, by wearing a “touch of red” to the memorial.
He leaves behind his wife Dawn, his three children Vicky, Mark and Liam and his three granddaughters.
Vicky Scott, Billy’s daughter, wrote a eulogy on behalf of the family packed with fond memories of her dad - a man “loved by all”.
“The thing he was most passionate about was his family.
“Billy and Dawn have been inseparable for over 30 years and together raised three children he was incredibly proud of.
“He loved spending time with his family, on family holidays, day trips and just having the family round at the house.
“One family holiday that stands out is their trip to Greece, where Billy made friends with all the guests and workers in the hotel and they ganged up on his last day to throw him in the pool.
“Billy was over the moon to have three beautiful granddaughters and loved being a grandad, even though he never got the chance to be called grandad as Matilda always calls him ‘Billy.’
“The family will make sure that the girls are always told about their grandad and how amazing he was.
“His life was filled with love and laughter and each person will have their own personal story to tell about him. He really was a special person who was loved by so many.
“We will all miss him dearly … Billy Ratcliffe, a top bloke.”
The family reminisced about Billy’s passion for football. As a staunch United fan, he would “never miss a game” and followed his team across land and sea to give his support.
According to Vicky, her dad would say that the club’s win against Bayern Munich in 1999, which he attended in Barcelona, was one of the “best days of his life”.
“Billy coached and managed Liam’s football team, Wigan Junior Latics for over 10 years,” said Vicky.
“He treasured the memories they made over the years and thought so highly of every player and every parent on that team.
“Looking back over old photographs, I should apologise on behalf of Billy for the outfits he made the lads wear.
“Billy tried to encourage me to play football, but after an afternoon playing where I managed to stand on the ball with both feet and an evening spent in A&E having my head glued back together, my football career was short lived.
“He was very active in the football community and devoted many hours to many different teams.
“He has watched and supported Mark play over the last 20 years and was always there encouraging all of the lads on the touchline.
“Recently, he enjoyed watching Mark and the lads be successful at Winstanley St Aiden’s.
“He was proud of the team winning the Lancashire Cup in 2016 and I’m sure he will be there in spirit when they look to win again on May 2, on what would have been his 55th birthday.”
Despite devoting a lot of his time to his family and his football, Billy still had time to work as a baker - which he did for most of his working life, finally ending up at Asda bakery where he stayed for 20 years.
He also had a passion for Northern Soul and The Swinley Labour Club, where he gave his time on the door.
“He was always the life and soul of any party,” said Vicky. “Whether that was Swinley, Blundells or in Tenerife at the Soul in the Sun.
“He would often tell people that the best pint of Fosters is poured in The Swinley and I’m sure we will sink a few in his memory - he would expect nothing less.
“We, as a family feel that life won’t ever be the same without him and we will keep him in our hearts forever and always.”
Vicky will take part in the Wigan 10k in September to raise money and awareness for Prostate Cancer UK.
To support Vicky’s fundraiser in Billy’s memory, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/vicky-ratcliffe2