Aug 10 2013 by Nick Hilton, Sat WIR
FRED WILLIAMS, among the most significant behind-the-scenes figures at Tranmere Rovers over the past half century, has passed away.
A former chairman, a director of the club through four decades and a lifelong Rovers supporter, Williams died at the age of 83, nine years after suffering a stroke that left him partially paralysed.
Tranmere will mark his passing with a minute’s silence before the League One game against Crawley Town at Prenton Park this afternoon.
Williams, Birkenhead born and bred, ran four companies in the construction, heating and ventilation business prior to his retirement. He saw action in an artillery regiment with the British Army during the Korean War in the early 1950s.
A Tranmere fan since boyhood, he served on the board at Prenton Park during the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s and was chairman between 1998 and 1999.
During those years he gave up much of his time and expertise to improving the infrastructure at Prenton Park and helping the club run efficiently. He was a well-known and popular figure in Birkenhead and at the football club.
Williams was responsible for exposing the financial issues that left the Wirral club on the brink of collapse in September 1998.
He ensured the majority shareholding in the club was returned to the name of the owner, Peter Johnson, who was chairman of Everton at the time.
Taking over as chairman during the 1998-99 season, Williams administered financial first aid to prevent the club lapsing into administration or worse. John Aldridge, manager at the time, credited Williams with lifting his own morale as the pair guided the club through a difficult season.
In the summer of 1999, Johnson asked Williams to step aside so he could appoint Lorraine Rogers as the new chairman. Williams went, but refused to resign.
Williams later served, briefly, as a director at Chester City.
In March 2004 Williams suffered a stroke, or rather a series of strokes during a 24-hour period, which took away the use of his left leg. He was no stranger to significant health problems. Between 1992 and 1997 he suffered no fewer than eight heart attacks, four heart failures and underwent five heart operations. A year after the last heart episode he took on the chairmanship of Tranmere.
It was typical of his enthusiasm for work and for football.
Following the stroke, Williams put his mind to finding a way to walk again. Dogged and determined, he clung on to that hope almost to the end.
“I am supposed to be patient and that isn’t easy to someone like me,” Williams said six months after the stroke. He repeated the sentiments many times down the years.
Williams managed a few steps in those early days but the damage done by the stroke proved too severe. He was forced to live his life in armchairs, wheelchairs and car seats. He was nursed at home by devoted wife Betty, his childhood sweetheart, and by a large and loving family. Williams boasted the largest shareholding in Tranmere outside the boardroom and several years ago passed control of those shares onto the Tranmere Rovers Supporters Trust.
A Tranmere club statement said: “Tranmere Rovers sends its condolences to the family and friends of former chairman Fred Williams who has passed away. The club will hold a minute’s silence before the Crawley game in Fred’s memory.”