A FAMILY has paid tribute to a "wonderful, courageous and positive man" who has died at the age of 55

Semi-professional footballer and keen cricketer, Graham Hill, from Westhoughton, died on November 21 at home with his wife Anne Hill and son Ryan by his side.

Tributes have poured in from across Bolton following his death after an 18-year battle with myeloma and POEMS syndrome.

Mr Hill is best known for his footballing career during the late 1980s and early 1990s, playing for clubs including Curzon Ashton, Runcorn FC, Leigh RMI, Chorley FC. But his illness meant he had to give up playing football but he continued as a coach.

He also played cricket player for Westhoughton, Farnworth Social Circle & Horwich cricket clubs.

Family and friends say he was the type of person who would be best friends with everyone.

And in last few weeks of his life he still went to his son's game - who plays for Brooklands Dragons JFC - and still offered support and life advice to those closest to him.

His brother Iain said it "was his way of fighting through the darkness; it was a release for him."


Graham Hill and son Ryan Hill with winning trophies

Graham Hill and son Ryan Hill with winning trophies


Mrs Hill led the tributes to her husband.

She said: "Graham was a wonderful man, a courageous and the most positive minded person we know.

"He had an infectious smile and personality and would have an impact on every person he met.

"His disability did not stop him he used his voice and boy was that loud.

"Graham was our hero just how he motivated us as a family.

"When things got tough which was often, I would say to him – lets give 90 minutes of determination as if it was a football game, as Graham’s passion for life was football.

"We do and will miss him so much – our hearts are broken and the emptiness hurts.

"Graham was our Tarzan, Spartacus, Hercules and many more heroic icons but can say Graham was the real thing.

"I felt very privileged to be his wife and had no doubts how much he loved me as he would not just say it – I felt it and I just hope he knew how much I loved him, and Ryan loved his Dad so much too.

"He will truly be missed but hope that his legacy will go on."


Graham Hill playing with Tony Macdonald for Curzon Ashton

Graham Hill playing with Tony Macdonald for Curzon Ashton


After several doses of chemotherapy in 2004/2005, Mrs Hill and Mr Hill were told it wasn’t possible to have children, but they had their 'miracle child'.

Mrs Hill added: "Well they say there is a reason for everything and our son Ryan was that reason – a reason to keep fighting, keep determined and to play those 90 minute challenges."

As Ryan got older, he also became a young career at the age of four, and he used to help his dad dress and tie his laces, as well as making his lunch on numerous occasions when his mum then worked part time.

Iain said he was very close to his brother, with their being just 18 months between them.

They both played on the same team at Westhoughton, with Mr Hill being his captain.

Iain said: "I remember how dedicated he was to everything he did, whether it was work or family.

"He was the best man at my wedding, and after the morning of my wedding he had to rush off to the first FA game to meet the team, and our brother Stephen had to step in for the best man speech.

"This was so like him, to be there for everyone.

"He was loved by everyone and was happy to talk to anyone, a real people’s person, and best friends with everyone.

"His son Ryan and Anne were the driving force behind everything, and he will be truly missed by everyone."

Mr Hill was also a big inspiration to Iain's children Christopher and Matthew.

He used his knowledge and contacts to help Christopher get a place on the Ashton Town football team.

His nephew Tom Hill added: "Uncle Graham was an inspiration to everyone he knew including myself.

"Watching him play football and cricket Inspired me to play it at a young age.

"I have many memories of going to watch him play at Wembley and against Fulham in the cup.

"But my best memory was being a mascot for Runcorn FC when he played there.

"I may have only been about five, and I always remember trying to kick the game ball to him and it hardly moving because it was so hard."


Westhoughton cricket club: Back row 4th in from either side: Graham Hill and Steve Lucas 2nd from the left

Westhoughton cricket club: Back row 4th in from either side: Graham Hill and Steve Lucas 2nd from the left


Steve Eyre was a close friend of Mr Hill's and played football with him at Runcorn FC, said he deeply saddened by the news.

He said that despite his long battle with the illness, he showed "unbelievable leadership qualities, which he displayed on the football field".

Mr Eyre added: "He never moaned, never blighted, never complained, and he was quite simply the most selfless man that me and the football world have ever met.

"He was always thinking of us and not others, and obviously our hearts and best wishes go towards his immediate family."

During his time at Farnworth Social Circle in 1998, he was the opening batsman and leader of the team, and scored quite a lot of rounds and wickets.

Former captain of Farnworth Social Circle, Ian Edwards said Graham comes from a "really lovely big family" and that Mr Hill's parents Olivia and Gordon, along with his children came to most games.

Mr Edwards said: "It's a great loss, and I was very sad to hear he passed away.

"I knew he was very ill, but it did come as a shock.

"He was a really nice lad, and he never caused anyone any trouble."

Mr Hill had a huge amount of success during the 1998/1999 season, which saw Leigh RMI reach the First Round Proper of the FA Cup, and achieving a 1-1 draw against Fulham in the club's first FA Cup First Round appearance in 16 years.

His team mate at Westhoughton Cricket Club, Steve Lucas, who played with him in the under 18s team, said: "There are people you get on with and people you stand away from, and I connected with him really well.

"I couldn't speak more highly of him."


Graham Hill coaching

Graham Hill coaching


One of Mr Lucas's fondest memories of Graham was when they batted out 15 overs for a draw.

Graham Lovett, who was the chairman at Westhoughton Cricket Club, knew Mr Hill since he played there in the under 11s, 13s, and 15 club when he was the captain of the club.

He said: "It's an absolute tragedy and I feel very sorry for his family and friends.

"He was a team leader on and off the field.

"We made him captain, and he could do the job really well.

"He always did the right thing and led people the right way and had a huge influence on people."

The funeral procession will take place on December 9 and leave on foot, from Mr Hill's home on Broadoaks Road, with the service taking place at St Paul's Church, Sale from 12pm.

The cortege will then continue on the road for the burial at Dunham Lawn Cemetery.

The family have also created a special tribute page for loved ones to leave memories, and make donations to Christie's, which can be found here: www.graham-hilly-hill.muchloved.com.