One of the men who “laid the foundations” to make Sunderland AFC’s Academy of Light what it is today has died.
Brian Buddle, who was the former head of education and welfare at the organisation, passed away aged 74 earlier this month.
He spent 15 years at the academy.
A number of former Black Cats players who knew Mr Buddle during their time at the academy left messages of condolence to him on Twitter.
Striker Martyn Waghorn, now at Ipswich Town, wrote: “Very sad to hear my old academy education manager Brian Buddle has passed away.
“He was a huge help to me and many others at the Academy of light. R.I.P Brian. #AOL #SAFC.”
Spennymoor Town midfielder Jamie Chandler, also an SAFC academy product, wrote: “Very sad news. What an absolute gent
Don Peattie, the current academy head of education who Mr Buddle passed the job onto, paid tribute to him.
He said: “I first came into contact with Brian in the late 1990s when he was appointed the club’s first Head of Education and Welfare following the FA’s introduction of the Charter for Quality.
“As I was working at a local college we were responsible for organising and delivering the educational provision for the club’s apprentices (now known as scholars).
“I remember travelling down to see Brian for meetings in those early days at the Charlie Hurley training ground in one of the porta cabins.
“I always got a lovely welcome.
“Brian was one of the original three or four members of the Academy along with Ged McNamee and Wayne Walls and over the years Brian saw the Academy grow to the size that it is today.
“Brian had a great input into how the Academy was shaped in those early days and helped to instil the values and ethos that still exist today.
“The reputation that the Academy has today can be attributed to the work that Brian and his colleagues did in those early days, laying those solid foundations for years to come.
“Brian worked tirelessly to ensure that young players gained as many qualifications and experiences as possible so that whenever they transitioned out of the game they had the necessary skills to be able to cope with life after football. “I knew Brian for over 15 years and had a great professional working relationship with him.
“He was a thoughtful and kind man and helped me enormously in my career, always willing to offer advice when needed.
“Furthermore I considered Brian to be a true friend and someone who I could totally rely on.”
A spokesman for Sunderland AFC said: “The football club was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Brian, a fantastic servant in his 15 years working at the Academy of Light and a much loved and popular man.
“It is impossible to quantify the work Brian did to better young players’ lives and careers, whether in football or outside it.
“The thoughts of everyone at SAFC are with Brian’s friends and family at this time.”
Mr Buddle leaves wife Joyce, children Richard and Charlotte and grandchildren Lucas, Daisy and Dillon.
Mr Buddle’s funeral will take place at Sunderland Crematorium on Thursday at 11am.