Ryman League Corinthian-Casuals led the tributes to respected coach, club member and supporter Keith Blunt over the weekend after the former head coach at the Football Association’s Centre of Excellence in Lilleshall passed away.
The manager of Sutton United in the seventies, saddened officials at the Surrey clubdescribed him as “a dear friend, supporter and club member” after learning of his death on Friday aged 76 after losing a long battle against cancer.
A minute’s silence was observed before Corinthian-Casuals beat Whyteleafe 2-1 at King George’s Field on the opening day of the season on Saturday as fans and former colleagues from around the world paid tribute and shared their memories of the late coach on social media.
After successfully guiding their youth team for a decade after returning from managing Malmö and Viking in Sweden, Tottenham Hotspur tweeted their condolences as did fans and officials from Sweden and China where he worked for a number of clubs before managing the latter’s U19 and U23 sides.
In a statement on their website, Corinthian-Casuals said: “Keith was one of the most highly respected coaches of his generation and a cherished member of our football club’s family. His son, Tony, a former club captain who played over 450 games for the club, his daughter Kate and Keith’s wife, Pauline, are all very much in our thoughts and hearts.
“In recent seasons, Keith could be found standing in front of the boardroom, cheering the team on. For anyone who had the pleasure of hearing his analysis in the bar after the final whistle, you knew immediately you were in the presence of a great football mind.
“Keith’s career as a football coach took him all around the world. In the 1980’s he managed the great Malmo side in Sweden, that went on to enjoy great success. In the 1990s, He was the head coach of the Lilleshall Academy, charged with nurturing such talents as Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, Joe Cole and Emile Heskey.
“He also enjoyed spells as the head of development at Tottenham and even in later years, took charge of the Chinese national U23 and U19 sides and yet he always came back down to Casuals to watch a game of football on a Saturday. Indeed, he’d even take the first team training sessions at times, the great man lived and breathed football.
“He’ll be greatly missed by all of us at the club, his eight year battle with cancer had proved long and hard for him and we’re just proud to have known him, proud he was a Corinthian. And he’ll never be forgotten.”
The FA also paid tribute the former national coach and director of their national school who was inducted into The FA’s Coaching Hall of Fame in 2014 by former pupil Carragher, pictured, for his outstanding services to coaching.
Hailing his work at the forefront of English coaching education during the 1970s and 80s, a spokesman said: “He will be fondly remembered for his pioneering work at The FA National School in Lilleshall, where he presided over a hugely successful period of English player development. All at The Football Association would like to pass on their condolences and best wishes to Keith’s family.”