Local football loses a giant following the death of Dave Denby

DAVE Denby, a much-loved figure in local football, has died at the age of 90.

Though Dave spent the whole of his working life as a plumber/heating engineer, he was best known for his footballing exploits and has been described as one of Tameside’s most successful managers of the last 30 years.

Dave Denby

Dave was manager of Ashton United’s treble-winning season of 1992 when the Hurst Cross club won the North West Counties League double and the Manchester Premier Cup, arguably their best post-war season. Those successes earned him the league’s manager-of-the-year award.

But it was Dave’s jovial personality which struck a chord as journalist Mike Pavasovic remembered: “Dave Denby’s most striking feature was his smile. He had a big, gleeful grin that dominated his face.

“The smile got wider and brighter whenever things were going well. It could also be accompanied by some crazy comment, a hearty hug or even a short dance of delight. And all done while he was frantically chewing gum. He could have had shares in Wrigley’s.

“Dave was the first person I ever heard use the term ‘now we’re cooking on gas’. In fact, I think the only other time I’ve heard it was when Bing Crosby came out with it in one of his films.”

Dave, who had been suffering from Alzheimers in recent years, passed away at Tameside Hospital on December 19. He had been a resident at St Lawrence’s Lodge care home in Denton since November 2020.

Dave was born in Ancoats but spent most of his life in Droylsden.

He was a promising player, a full back who was an associate schoolboy at Blackpool and later played semi-pro for Glossop, Droylsden and Abbey Hey.

But it was as a coach, manager and scout that Dave was best known, though Janet, his wife of 49 years, admitted that only came about by accident in his mid-forties.

Janet recalled: “Dave did a plumbing job at Wrexham Football Club, and they gave him football shirt.

“When he tried it on, he realised he needed to lose weight and went training with Abbey Hey on a Tuesday night.

“He eventually became manager of their second team and then the first team, and the rest is history.”

Dave Denby, left, and Gary Riley with silverware from Ashton United’s treble winning campaign

Janet recalled Dave occasionally turning out for Abbey Hey in his forties when they were short of players, and even scoring a goal.

After the successful spell managing Ashton United, Dave took charge of Mossley and Curzon Ashton where he had earlier spent time as assistant manager.

While individual success may have eluded him after he left Hurst Cross, he enjoyed a fruitful partnership as Peter Wragg’s assistant at both Stalybridge Celtic and Macclesfield Town.

Peter said: “I was very sad to hear Dave has died as he was a thoroughly nice man. He was the best sort of assistant because he never tried to push himself into the foreground.”

Dave also coached and scouted for home-town club Droylsden.

Though Dave once was as a season-ticket holder at Manchester United, the team he supported from being a boy, he also had a spell scouting for rivals City.

And through that link, Dave was also hired to carry out plumbing work at their old Maine Road ground.

Dave also told Mike Pavasovic how doing his National Service as an 18-year-old in the Army also shaped his life as he was based at Belsen, Germany, and later in life revisited the site of the concentration camp where there is now a memorial and exhibition hall.

His Army service was not long after the end of the Second World War and Dave declared: “I went in as a boy and came out a man.”

Dave leaves wife Janet, daughters Karen and Nadine and grandchildren Thomas and Lucy.

His funeral will be at Hollinwood Crematorium, Oldham, on Monday, January 10, 2.30pm.

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