TRIBUTES have been paid to a Barrow legend and “true gentleman” who has died after contracting coronavirus.

Former Barrow AFC player and manager Brian Arrowsmith died on Sunday, aged 79.

Arrowsmith made 580 appearances – 378 in the League – in two spells between 1961 and 1977, as well as spending 18 months as player/manager.

The popular defender played during Barrow’s Football League heyday – when they won promotion to the old Third Division – and came back after a short spell at Netherfield during their early non-league days. He started his career as a right back but played across the defence when required.

In January 2017 former Bluebirds owner Paul Casson unveiled the Brian Arrowsmith Stand ahead of the FA Cup third-round tie against Rochdale.

Arrowsmith was in the side which beat Rochdale 2-0 the last time the sides met in December 1969 in Division Three.

Speaking to The Mail from his home in Texas, Mr Casson said: “I was saddened to hear of Brian’s death. He was a true gentlemen, a proper Barrovian.

“He will be missed and I’m not sure they make them like that anymore.

“I’m just happy I could give the family some small degree of the respect he truly deserved by naming the main stand at Holker Street after him,

“I’m sad I couldn’t get them to the Football League quick enough that Brian could see it. Hopefully Paul Hornby and co can do what I couldn’t.

“So, fingers crossed, they end the season in the appropriate way and the Football League beckons.

“I have told Paul Hornby I’ll need tickets for opening day.”

Mr Arrowsmith’s best friend of more than half a century, Jimmy Wright, paid tribute to his former teammate.

“We met in 1958 when we were both apprentices for the soccer,” the 78-year-old said.

“He was best man at my wedding to Anita and I was best man at his to Jean.

“I had a lot of time for Brian, I couldn’t ask for a better friend.

“Brian’s biggest asset was his work ethic. He put 100 per cent into everything he did.

“I’d not been able to speak to him since he went into hospital but he had deteriorated and was really struggling towards the end.”

Former Evening Mail sports writer Bob Herbert said: “Brian was outstanding in defence.

“He would put his head and his body in places where others would not have the courage to do so. Brian was one of five locals in the squad that promotion season and while he made 39 appearances, the others – Lionel Duffin, Bob Knox. Peter Marshall and Ron Stephenson - made only a handful between them.”

After leaving Barrow in 1971, Arrowsmith joined Northern Premier League club Netherfield but returned to Barrow – who by then had been voted out of the Football League and placed in the Northern Premier League themselves – in 1974 as player-manager. He resigned as manager in November 1975, but continued playing for the club until 1978.

“He remained the link between the players with Eric Harrison and Bobby Tait often coming through to play golf with him in better days,” said Bob Herbert.

“Brian’s health had not been too good recently but he and (his wife) Jean would still get well wrapped up and take their seats in the stand named after him. His passing leaves me so sad.”

Grant Holt, former Barrow and Norwich City striker, wrote on Twitter: “Really sad news, what a gentleman he was. Was always a pleasure to have a chat with him.”

Club chairman Paul Hornby said he and the other directors were “incredibly upset”.

“Not only was he a true BAFC legend, but a lovely man who was very supportive of the club well after his playing days were over,” said Mr Hornby.

“Along with his wife Jean, he always had time for a chat and we were always grateful for his words of support and advice. We all loved seeing Brian around the club with his family and it’s fitting that our main stand is named after him so his name will forever be there for all to see and never forgotten.

“From the memories and tributes that have been shared on social media since last night, it is clear that Brian is responsible for our supporters happy memories from the club’s past days in the Football League.”

As well as being known for his footballing achievements Mr Arrowsmith was also a keen golfer.

Furness Golf Club posted a tribute on Facebook.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of a legend, Brian Arrowsmith, a loved and well respected member of Furness Golf Club who has lost his battle with coronavirus.

“Our thoughts and prayers go to Jean, Mark, Lee and family at this very sad time.”

Brian also played for Vickerstown Cricket Club, winning the North Lancs League with them in 1961.