Supporters fight league officials over shirt tribute to former Sunderland academy keeper

Dale Roberts
Dale Roberts
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A football club has hit out at officials after it was told it must register the goalkeeper’s number one jersey which was “retired” in memory of a former Sunderland academy player.

Rushden & Diamonds FC retired the shirt after the death of east Durham goalkeeper Dale Roberts, in December 2010.

The club’s other 35 teams will continue to use the numbers 13, 17, 24 and 86 for their goalkeepers.

Rushden & Diamonds statement

Dale, whose parents Isabel and George still live in Horden, County Durham, had become depressed over rumours that his fiance had had an alleged affair with Paul Terry, brother of Chelsea captain John Terry.

Dale, who was at Sunderland and Middlesbrough academies as a youngster, took his own life.

Sunderland stars Adam Johnson and Danny Graham, who were friends and previously team-mates of Dale, attended his funeral at St Mary’s Church in Horden.

After Rushden & Diamonds dissolved back in 2011, a phoenix club was created and was last season promoted to the Southern Football League Division One Central.

League rules insist each side must have a number one shirt registered, despite the club asking for special dispensation to allow their goalkeeper to wear 17.

The appeal has been rejected.

Fans of the club have also hit out at the ruling, setting up a petition keep the shirt retired.

It has so far gathered more than 2,000 signatures.

A statement on the club’s website reads: “The club’s other 35 teams will continue to use the numbers 13, 17, 24 and 86 for their goalkeepers.

“Dale’s memory will always be cherished and respected by everyone at AFC Rushden & Diamonds.

“Updates on the progress of the appeal with Football Association as well as any other relevant information, will be provided by the club as soon as they become available.”

Mr and Mrs Roberts could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

The petition is at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/petition-against-the-southern-leagues-decision.