The family of a ‘truly wonderful’ family man have said the support they have received from his friends and supporters of Chester FC are helping them through the most difficult of times.

Life-long Blues fan Phil Bailey died on Tuesday at the age of 58 at Walton Hospital, Liverpool, after a short illness.

A well known and popular figure among Blues fans and a regular sight in the stands both home and away, Phil, from Saltney, also played a key role as secretary at Airbus UK Broughton over an eight-year spell.

And Phil’s wife Michelle paid an emotional tribute to her ‘loving husband’ and ‘wonderful father’ to their two children Kelly and Luke, saying that his memory is one that will burn bright.

“The support we have received as a family has been just wonderful and has really helped us in coping,” said Michelle, who had been married for 16 of her 28 years with Phil.

“We have obviously had our moments since losing Phil and we’ve cried a lot of tears but people have been so supportive and they have helped us. Seeing the love and affection that people had for Phil just fills my heart and makes me so proud that he was my husband.

“Phil was a larger than life character and anyone who has met him would say that. He was a big man with an ever bigger heart. We are a close family and we had a special relationship and we always used to have so much banter. He was the same at home as he was at the football. He was a truly wonderful man.”

Born in Peterborough, Phil spent time in the Armed Forces in the Army Catering Corps, based in Aldershot. His time with the Corps saw him head to Northern Ireland and Germany.

After he left the Forces he worked as a chef at the Toby Carvery in Mickle Trafford and also spent 13 years working for Royal Mail.

He was passionate about his sport - and it wasn’t just football.

A keen cricket and ice hockey fan, Phil followed Kent CCC and supported the New Jersey Devils.

An avid football fan and programme collector, Phil would travel the length and breadth of the UK in search of obscure games to watch of a weekend when not watching his beloved Blues - and he always picked up a matchday programme wherever he went.

And his love of football and Chester was something that has been passed on, with son Luke being a Blue since a very young age.

“Luke was the youngest ever Junior Blue at one stage,” said Michelle.

“Phil took him to his first Chester game at six days old. He was adamant that Luke was going to grow up to be a Chester fan, that is something he was sure about. Poor Luke had no say in the matter.

“He loved his ice hockey, too. He would be up in the early hours watching it and was a supporter of the New Jersey Devils. He was just a massive sports fan.

“But football was his passion, especially Chester. He always wanted to see new grounds and he’d be taking me to all these places. He would make sure it had a nice town I could have a look around while he went and watched some obscure game. We loved Scotland and he had been in the process of doing the grounds in the Lowland Leagues. Phil didn’t drive so I was his chauffeur, he knew he had to keep me sweet!

“This may sound a bit daft to some but he loved us as much as he loved his football - and he utterly adored his football, just as he did his family.”

Protesters stand at the entrance to the Chester City Football Stadium in revolt against Terry Smith, the club's manager. Pictured from left to right are George Rogers, Joe Burns, Phil Bailey, Peter Clark and Craig Grimshaw

Michelle paid tribute to staff at the Walton Hospital for their help in caring for her husband in his final days.

“They need to know how wonderful they are,” she said.

“They knew Phil wouldn’t recover but they kept going like they thought he would and did everything to help him and make us feel comfortable as a family.

“They came to me on Phil’s last night and said that they had made a bed up for me next to Phil. It meant so much to me that I was able to lie next to him and be with him one last time. That means the world and they didn’t have to do that.”

And Michelle also said she and the family have taken comfort from the fact that Phil’s organs have been donated and that two people have already been given a chance at life after receiving his kidneys.

“That is something that gives us so much comfort,” said Michelle.

“That Phil is living on and helping others still is something is just wonderful. Words can’t express how much we will miss him and the void it has left in our lives but knowing how loved he gives us a lot of comfort.”

Airbus UK Broughton chairman Mick Mayfield worked alongside Phil for eight years from 2004 to 2012.

During that time Phil worked as secretary at the Flintshire club and his impact at the Wingmakers continues to be felt.

“Phil was brilliant for us,” said Mick.

“He got involved with us and really threw himself into it. He was such a character and was a big bloke with a big personality and an even bigger heart.

“He was so popular within the Welsh Premier League and he was never afraid of speaking his mind whenever something needed saying.

“He brought other people into the club to help and volunteer and those people are still with us today and are critical to us today. Without Phil bringing them in then things may have been different.

“Phil was an excellent secretary and did so much good work for us, but more importantly he was my mate and I will miss him greatly.”

Phil was also a familiar face on the Chester away travel coach, dubbed by Blues fans as the ‘Hipkiss Express’.

And Barrie Hipkiss, honorary life president of Chester FC and a long-time friend of Phil, paid his own tribute.

“I’ve know Phil for 40 years through the football club and Airbus and there weren't many who knew more about the local amateur football scene than him,” said Barrie.

“He was a big character and he called a spade a spade, but he was so well liked and loved the football club and was always a massive help to us.

“He used to help sell the programmes before games and he would do anything to help you out.

“The last away game he came on the coach was East Thurrock in the FA Trophy in January because it was a ground he hadn’t been to before.

“It’s a tremendous loss and my heart goes out to his family. We’ll miss him.”

Chester groundsman Mike Barrow was a big friend of Phil, driving him to home games and sitting next to him in the stands.

“We are all in shock,” said Mike.

“He was a good mate and my Saturdays won’t be the same without picking him up and watching the game with him. We had plenty of good times and he kept us going even when it was gloomy.

“Phil has kept all our spirits up this season. No matter what happened on the pitch you could always rely on Phil to say something and crack you up and keep you smiling.

“Phil has always looked out for me and it is something I won’t ever forget. He was a top bloke and everybody's mate, it was a privilege to know him."