HEATON Cricket Club stalwart Phil Roberts has died, aged 72.

He joined the Lower Pools club as a youngster and played through the junior team age groups before working his way into the first team.

He became first-team captain and later moved into the second team, which he also captained, before managing the club's under-18s team.

He was best known on the field of play as a big-hitting batsman.

A Heaton man through and through he lived all his life close to the club.

Heaton official Warwick Milne said Mr Roberts' nickname Big Phil summed him up.

"This was not just a reflection on his significant stature but also his character," he said.

"He found humour and a reason to smile in everything – work, play, family and friends.

"He was an active sportsman with a particular love for cricket.

"He worked his way through the junior sections at Heaton and eventually became first-team captain – a role he embraced with typical gusto.

"As a player he bowled gentle seamers and was high quality in the slip area.

"But it was for his batting exploits he will be most remembered – it’s probably fair to say Phil invented big sixes.

"He moved down to captain the second team where he was a successful leader, and then to manager of the under-18s team.

"Here he passed on the joy and love of the game which were imperative to him.

"His sides won everything – with the not inconsiderable help of one Ronnie Irani. Phil always ensured they were disciplined and level-headed.

A plumber by trade he nurtured many an apprentice in vocational and life skills in his own inimitable way.

"He lived all his life a stone’s throw away from Moss Bank Park and was thus a true man of Heaton and Smithills."

A plumber by trade, Mr Roberts leaves a wife, Cynthia, to whom he was married to for nearly 30 years."