HARRY McNally was arguably Chester City's most successful manager. What isn't disputed is that he was the most charismatic.
He was brought to the club by the then chairman Eric Barnes and the question on the lips of many supporters was: 'Harry who?'
As a part-timer with non-league clubs, McNally had no pedigree as a player and many questioned his right to be the manager of a club badly in need of a lift.
But it didn't take long for supporters and players to realise he was a passionate motivator with an encyclopaedic knowledge of players at the lower end of the Football League.
His first move was to bring in Graham Barrow from Wigan Athletic. A tall, powerful midfielder and a natural leader, Barrow became one of the club's most influential players and later one of its most popular managers.
His signing inspired one of Chester's most successful periods, punctuated by a two-year exile in Macclesfield during the relocation from Sealand Road to Bumpers Lane.
McNally's record as a manager is there for all to see in the record books, but it was the man himself who earned the legendary status among those who have sat in the hotseat at Sealand Road, Moss Rose and the Deva Stadium.
Sitting behind his desk in his pin-striped suit, glasses perched on the end of his nose, he looked more a mild-mannered accountant than a football manager. But, like Clark Kent emerging in his Superman outfit from a telephone box, McNally would take on a different persona when he donned his blue manager's coat and had taken his place on the touchline.
Bellowing and snarling at players, he was an entertainment in himself. Who will forget during that Freight Rover Trophy tie at Wrexham, McNally dashing on the pitch to drag an injured Colin Woodthorpe to his feet and ordering him to get on with the game?
'With minutes to go in a cup tie at Wrexham, you must be prepared to die for the cause,' he growled after the match. Yes, Harry McNally hated to lose and heaven help anyone who asked him the wrong question following a defeat.
I remember standing outside the Chester dressing room at the old Walsall ground, Fellows Park, after one defeat. A home official took a tray of tea and sandwiches in for the players. Moments later the door opened and out they came, broken crockery, tea and food all over the place!
And following a top-of-the-table game at Swindon which Chester lost, McNally ordered his players straight on to the coach, as he usually did after a defeat. He was frustrated that the Mayor of Swindon's official car was blocking the car-park exit.
McNally stormed off the coach ready to confront His Worship and had to be restrained by his trusted lieutenant Mick Clarke.
But my fondest memories of McNally were the hours spent preparing his column, Harry's Game, which ran for several seasons in The Chronicle. He didn't need any suggestions for topics to talk about. He had plenty of his own - most of them controversial.
Highly intelligent and articulate, McNally had an opinion on just about everything from sport to politics. He sparked a storm of protests from our readers when he defended a fellow manager's decision not to allow one of his players to miss a game to attend the birth of his child. He revelled in the response. Harry always had the courage of his convictions.
We had our spats, though. The draw for this season's FA Cup third-round tie at Bournemouth brought back memories of the last time the clubs met in the competition at Moss Rose. He blamed his goalkeeper Billy Stewart for the defeat and accused him of costing the club thousands of pounds.
I asked Stewart what he thought about that and when McNally found out, he didn't speak to me for weeks. It was a fraught time, but we eventually made up.
Loveable on the one hand and infuriating on the other, McNally was no saint. He could be ruthless at times and ruled the dressing room with a rod of iron. But he had the knack of bringing the best out of his players.
His reign as City manager ended with the sack. Nothing new in that. It is par for the course in football management. McNally loved to have a good time and sometimes his red wine-fuelled exuberance wasn't always well-timed or appropriate.
But that was Harry. He lived his life to the full and there was never a dull moment. For those of us who worked closely with him, the McNally years were great fun.
Tributes flow in for a true Chester City legend >>>
Tributes flow in for a true Chester City legend
Brian Croft, ex-City midfielder: 'He was magnificent, a father figure to me. It was Harry who gave me my chance in football as a 17-year-old. He was always a rock, very intelligent and always one step ahead. When I moved on to Cambridge and QPR it was never quite the same and that's largely due to Harry.
Jonathan Legard, Radio Five Live reporter and Chester City fan: 'Harry was the first manager I ever interviewed, he was so very helpful, he could not have been more supportive or more enthusiastic. He remains the only manager I have ever interviewed who was naked after I accidently walked in on him in the dressing room! The 1985-86 promotion season was tremendous.'
Steve Sweetman, ex-Bolton Wanderers and a close friend: 'He was my best mate and I'm still in shock. It's so sad, we've been friends for years. I will remember him for all the fun times we spent socialising and telling jokes. We went to football matches together and it was obvious how well thought of he was within the game.'
Graham Bowker, former Sheffield Wednesday player and friend: 'Harry was incredibly quick witted. He was well liked by so many people but he also has a very close circle of friends, people such as John Kelly, Dave Brammer, Brian Croft and Gary Bennett. I never heard him moan about anything. In football terms he was very astute and he passed on a lot of knowledge to people who are now doing well in the game, people such as Paul Jewell, Mike Newell and Gary Megson.'
Ian Rush, Chester City manager: 'I've known Harry for years. He's been along to a number of our home games this season and I always listened to his advice. Chester City can be proud to have had him as one of its managers.'
Robin Hodgson, close friend: 'He was a wonderful entertainer. I remember he once spotted a young lad in a wheelchair with a Chelsea shirt on at Dorin Park School. He told him he'd get him a Chester shirt if he started supporting City instead. Harry made a really big fuss of him and even had him picked up and driven to the training ground. He was very colourful and had some fantastic sayings. My favourite was how he talked about plans for a night out, he'd say 'At worst it's going to be brilliant.'
Jon Wainwright, editor of Chester City fanzine The Onion Bag: 'He was wonderfully characterful both at Chester games or away from football, there was always an amusing anecdote to report - his notorious 1989 Christmas bash with the players being spectacular. He never failed to snarl at me during our encounters and once chased me out of a certain city centre hostelry shouting you 'talentless' so and so. But it never detracted from my appreciation of his efforts. My favourites are the throwing of an injured Colin Woodthorpe back onto the pitch in a Wrexham derby, the promotion side of 1985-86 and the great relegation escape of 1991-92 when Harry was positively Churchillian.'
Andy Holden, ex-Chester and Wales defender now youth team coach at Everton: 'Harry and I had our differences but I have nothing but respect for him. There was one point during his reign when he basically kept the club going single handedly.'
Terry Cunningham, a close friend: 'Harry was a very charitable person, not everyone's cup of tea but an unbelievable personality, one of life's characters. He will be sorely missed.'
Barrie Hipkiss, Chester City Supporters Club chairman: 'We are shocked and saddened by the news. He was a real character. I remember he used to come over and ask my wife if we could put up some of the young lads at the club and we had five of them here once - players like Milton Graham and Robbie Painter. Harry got results on a shoe-string budget and brought players through the ranks. Harry will be remembered as one of the great managers of Chester City.'
Paul Jewell, Wigan Athletic manager: 'There are certainly a lot of players whose careers may not have been half as successful as they were if it wasn't for Harry's influence in their early days. Everyone has a story about Harry, there are hundreds of them and the best thing about it is that they are all true!'