THE local football fraternity is mourning the death of Darrell 'Duds' Freeland, who has passed away at the age of 43, writes Dave Wright.

Whilst he had been seriously ill in hospital for several months, the news has still deeply shocked all those who knew him.

He was one of the best-known faces in local football circles, a respected authority on everything connected with non-league matters, on and off the field.

Dudley was a long-serving secretary of Bracknell Town and later joined forces with Tom Canning to launch the popular Football in Bracknell website.

"He is and always will be my biggest inspiration for being involved in the local game for the best part of 20 years," commented Canning.

Due to serious heart problems, he had spent many weeks in hospital, much of it in the intensive care unit.

There were occasions when he showed glimpses of improving, but his incredibly courageous and determined fight to recover finally came to an end last weekend. Since then, countless tributes have been made via social media.

He was described as "one in a million" by Liz Thorn, the mother of Bracknell Town goalkeeper Chris Grace, while defender Carl Davies said he was "an absolute gentleman."

And Town's physio, Liam Day, rated him as "one of the nicest blokes I've ever met in football."

Binfield FC secretary Rob Challis recalled Dudley's days at Larges Lane, stating he was the "ultimate volunteer who helped keep Bracknell Town alive in the bad times."

He was labelled a "real non-league man and a good friend to all clubs" by Ascot United, whose press and communications manager Neal Jeffs was a close friend of Freeland and frequently visited him at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London.

Wokingham & Emmbrook FC said he was a "fantastic volunteer contributor and supporter of local football and will be sorely missed" while player Jake White tweeted "the passion this guy had for non-league was incredible."

Tom Canning was organising special tributes to be made to Freeland at Bracknell's play-off semi-final against Westfield last night (Tuesday),