Players and officials of Barnoldswick Town have been stunned by the sudden death of club chairman Alverley Ashworth on Tuesday.

Mr Ashworth, 60, had been a key figure in the club’s rapid rise up the soccer pyramid.

His death was discovered by his son Simon when he called at Mr Ashworth’s Barnoldswick home. The cause is unknown and a post mortem is being held.

Just weeks ago he was in Cardiff to collect a prestigious Institute of Groundsmen’s award on behalf of the club.

Barnoldswick Town secretary Lynn James said: “Everybody at the club is absolutely stunned.

“Alverley was a wonderful person. he was always at the club working, doing odd jobs and encouraging people.

“He is going to be sorely missed because he did so much for the club.

“He once said that he needed the football club more than the club needed him, but that certainly wasn’t how we all felt.

“Alverley did so much to promote the club. As chairman he was always about on matchdays greeting opposition officials, and he travelled to away game too.

“He was always supportive and so encouraging. If the team lost he would ring the manager the day after and offer encouragement.

“Alverley was liked by everybody. Just recently one of the first team players called him into the dressing room and sang a rap he had written specially for him.”

Barnoldswick's Vodkat North West Counties League Premier Division game at Bacup Borough on Monday has been called off.

“Everybody is so upset at the moment.” said Mrs James. “We feel we want more time to come to terms with this extremely sad loss.”

Mr Ashworth, who was formerly a groundsman at Rolls Royce, initially joined the club to help John Beswick work on the ground back in 1992.

Later he was to become chairman as the club started its rapid climb up the ranks.

In the past 12 months he saw his club win promotion from the Vodkat North West Counties League Division One at the first attempt, and climb to fifth in the Premier Division this term.

Mr Ashworth is the second Barlick stalwart to die this year. Founder member Brian Bowditch also died.

Tributes and messages of condolences have been appearing on the club's website.

These include messages from the chairman of the Vodkat North West Counties League, and fellow Premier Division clubs Silsden and Runcorn Linnets.