WEARSIDE-BORN former Colchester United captain Bobby Cram died in Canada just days before planning to watch his beloved Sunderland play the team he led to an FA Cup giant-killing.
Mr Cram, uncle of former athlete Steve Cram, died of a heart attack at home in Vancouver last weekend, aged 68.
He led Colchester to a famous 3-2 FA Cup fifth round win over Don Revie's mighty Leeds United in 1971, during a career spanning 100 games with the Essex club.
His sister, Joy Lynch, of Sunderland, revealed Mr Cram had arranged to fly home this weekend to see Sunderland's potential promotion clincher at Colchester tomorrow.
She said: "His death has hit us hard as it was such a recent surprise that he was ill at all.
"Bobby was always in good health but went to the dentist a few weeks ago and they wouldn't give him an anaesthetic because his blood pressure was high.
"He had felt well, but suffered a heart attack three weeks ago and spent some time in hospital because of it.
"He was on medication and had been sent back home, but unfortunately suffered another heart attack.
"He had been so looking forward to coming over for the game this weekend. He was still a Sunderland fan after all these years."
From Hetton and one of 10 children to Jack and Olive Cram, Mr Cram represented England schoolboys and was snapped up by West Bromwich Albion at the age of 15. He played 141 league games for the Midlands club, scoring 25 goals between 1959 and 1966 and winning the League Cup.
Mr Cram became only the second full-back ever to score a hat-trick in a First Division game, in a 5-2 win over Stoke in 1964.
After brief spells with Bromsgrove Rovers and an initial stay in Canada, he joined Colchester in January 1970 before returning to Vancouver, where he ran successful soccer schools and became the manager of a courier firm.
Though divorced from wife Ann, the couple remained close. They had four children, one grandson, Jackson, and two more grandchildren on the way.
Mr Cram's mother is still alive aged 99.
Black armbands will be worn at tomorrow's game as a mark of respect.