Former Grantham Town player-manager Alan O’Meara died in Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, on Friday. He was 54 years old.
O’Meara made 13 appearances for the Gingerbreads in his three spells at the club. His nickname was Benny, generally believed to have derived from the character “Benny The Ball” in the cartoon series Top Cat.
Benny played in goal for Grantham Amateurs and was on the books of Sheffield Wednesday before joining Scunthorpe United where he made 41 senior appearances in the mid-1970s.
His first spell for the Gingerbreads was during the 1978-79 season, standing in for goalkeeping legend Chris Gardiner in his first appearance against Bromsgrove Rovers in September.
His second spell at London Road was in the 1986-87 season when as an outfield player he scored in a league game against Wellingborough Town.
After several seasons at Mirlees Blackstone, he joined Stamford in the early 1990s and then moved to Harrowby United.
Benny rejoined Grantham as manager after the departure of Bob Duncan towards the end of the 1992-93 season. With the club in a financial crisis and players jumping ship, he played seven games as player-manager, the last being at Leicester United. He was at the helm for 21 games, winning five, drawing six and losing 10.
Grantham Town club secretary Pat Nixon said Benny was a great friend. Pat said: “He was a lovely chap. He came to us when the club was in turmoil and he got us a side together.
“We had financial problems. The manager resigned and players were leaving.”
Benny left the Gingerbreads in the summer of 1993 when the board of directors brought in former Lincoln City player Allen Crombie.
Benny went on to manage Harrowby United soon after, replacing Barry Shaw, and guided them to the United Counties Division One championship.
Benny, who worked at Vacu-Lug, was still playing football in midfield with Barrowby Veterans up to the time of his death. He had been at the village side for the past six seasons.
Barrowby Vets team administrator and workmate Phil Tinkler said the news of Benny’s death had been unbelievable.
Phil said: “It’s just a complete shock. Benny was a true friend, he loved life and lived it to the max.
“He was a great footballer with a great footballing brain, and brought spirit to the team.
“People loved to play with him and you’d always pick him for your team. He was a lovable character.”
Benny leaves daughter Krystle, son Glenn and partner Sue.
The funeral will take place at St Wulfram’s Church next Friday (February 1) at 10.30am. Family flowers only, with donations to Fabrice Muamba’s charity Arrhythmia Alliance and the British Heart Foundation.