WREXHAM and Chester football fans have been united in shock at the sudden death of a local football legend.
Stuart Mason, 57, of Clarke Road, passed away suddenly in his sleep on Sunday.
Mr Mason made 600 appearances during his long professional football career which saw him take in spells at Wrexham, Chester, Rochdale and Crewe. He also signed for Bill Shankly's Liverpool but never quite made the first team in his two years at Anfield.
He leaves his wife Anne, son Simon, 32,and daughter Joanne, 31.
Simon Mason spoke warmly of his father, remembering the proud moments he spent watching his dad play.
He said: 'He was a fantastic father to myself and my sister Joanne.
'We used to go everywhere with him when he was playing football. I can remember going to watch him play for Chester in the 70s at the time when they were beating the likes of Newcastle and Leeds in the League Cup. I used to like going to watch him play cricket, too.
'He was everything you could wish a father to be. He was a happy-go-lucky guy and was very much looking forward to playing cricket this summer.
'He made a lot of good friends through football and cricket, and he will be greatly missed. I feel very proud of everything he has achieved and passed on to me over the years.'
Born in Whitchurch in 1948, Stuart Mason's football career spanned three decades.
As a youngster he won three caps for the England Youth team.
He began playing for his hometown club Whitchurch Alport before being spotted by a Wrexham scout in 1964.
He later moved to Liverpool before making a welcome return to the Racecourse, helping the club gain promotion in 1970.
In 1973, he was transferred to Sealand Road and scored one of Chester's goals in their 1975 League Cup semi-final exit to Aston Villa, as they Blues lost 5-4 on aggregate.
After then moving on to Rochdale and Crewe, he left the professional game to play briefly for Bangor City and Oswestry Town.
Mr Mason retired from playing in the mid-80s and became manager of Oswestry, after which he returned to Wrexham as assistant commercial manager.
He was also a talented cricketer and played for Whitchurch as well as captaining Shropshire.
Mr Mason was a well respected figure in the business community and ran the Stuart Mason Sports shop in Wrexham town centre for 20 years.
Wrexham FC secretary Geraint Parry has also paid tribute, saying: 'Stuart's death is very sad and totally unexpected.
'He did a great deal for Wrexham FC and was a hero to an awful lot of people.
'Our sympathy goes out to all his family and friends at this sad time.'
Mr Mason's funeral will be held tomorrow (Friday) at St Giles Parish Church at 1pm, followed by an open reception at the Racecourse Ground at 2pm.
Donations in his memory can be made to the Chester and Wrexham Football Schools of Excellence.
A minute's silence will be held before Wrexham's home game against Rushden & Diamonds next Tuesday.