Tributes paid to legendary Whitby Town boss Tony Lee
Tony, 75, had an illustrious career in football, playing professionally alongside the likes of Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton at Leicester City, but it would be as a manager that he would gain most recognition, writes Paul Connolly.
After two years in charge of Smith’s Dock in the Teesside League, Lee was appointed as Whitby Town manager, transforming a struggling Whitby side that famously took them to the second round of the FA Cup in 1983/84.
His side came back from 2-0 to beat Division Four Halifax Town in the first round before losing to a late Wigan penalty in the second round, denying them a third-round clash with West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground.
Their exciting and fearless approach to the game saw them also go all the way to the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy, only losing out to Dagenham after a replay.
Following the news of Lee's passing, clubs across the North East paid tribute to the legendary manager, including Championship side Middlesbrough.
Whitby Town tweeted on Sunday, "We are deeply saddened the hear of the passing of our legendary former manager, Tony Lee.
"Tony guided the Seasiders to the second round of the FA Cup, as well as the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy in the 1980s. Our thoughts go out to Tony's family and friends at this time."
After leaving Whitby Town, Lee landed at Billingham Synthonia, building one of the all-time great Northern League sides.
He twice led Synners to the first round of the FA Cup. His side won the title twice, the League Cup twice and the Durham Cup.
Following his death, Synners tweeted, “If the term legend is mentioned at the club then Tony Lee is at the top of that list.”
While in charge of Billingham Synthonia, he would play a significant role in supporting Middlesbrough during their liquidation crisis in 1986, providing Bruce Rioch’s side with a training ground, and stepping in with his team to ensure Boro's reserve fixtures were fulfilled.
Lee would also go on to manage Gateshead, Spennymoor Town, Bishop Auckland and Celtic Nation.
Lee's family were in attendance for Whitby Town's match against Marske United, where the club paid tribute to their former manager, as well as committee member Dave Griffiths, who also passed away early in the week.
"Tony was a great man," current Whitby boss Nathan Haslam told the Whitby Gazette.
"The man was incredible for North East football and it’s no surprise whatsoever that his family have had so much love coming in for Tony over the last couple of days.
"It was sad to hear of Dave's passing this week too. Dave was an outstanding servant to Whitby Town as a volunteer and committee man, and he'll be sadly missed by all of us at the club, inside and outside of match day.
"Both of them will be sorely missed, both by all of us at Whitby and by everyone in the North East football community."
Tributes also came in from players who played against Lee's Northern League sides, including former Whitby Town captain Neil Hodgson.
"You certainly knew what to expect when you played against one of Tony’s teams.
"He put together some top sides over the years in the Northern League.
"My thoughts are with all of the family at this very sad time."
Tony’s funeral will be held at St Bede’s Chapel, Acklam on 24 February at 10.30am, followed by a gathering at Marton CC.