RYLANDS Football Club are mourning the death of a manager who put together one of the best teams in their history.

Harry “Joe” Rudge, who guided Blues to two league titles and a record FA Vase run, passed away on December 28.

Under his stewardship, Rylands won the Mid-Cheshire League championship in 1981 and 1984.

They also reached the last 32 of the FA Vase in the 1983-84 season, when they were controversially knocked out by Nottinghamshire outfit Rainworth Miners Welfare.

After losing the initial tie in front of 1,200 spectators – to this day Rylands’ record crowd – Rainworth lodged a complaint about the length of the Gorsey Lane pitch, which was found to be one yard too short.

Rylands were forced to travel to Rainworth for a replay, which they lost 1-0 – one of only two defeats all season.

Club benefactor Paul Stretford played for the club under Rudge’s management and says players would “run through brick walls” for him.

“It is very sad to learn of Joe’s death. The team he put together was one of the best in the club’s history,” he said.

“He built a successful team and the players would run through a brick wall for him.

“Joe was both loved and respected by all his players and it is no coincidence that the team broke up, the club then going through a barren period when Joe took the decision to step down as manager to allow him to spend more time with his family.

“I can’t thank him enough for the memories we have all shared as players and still talk about today.”

Rylands’ current players wore black armbands and held a minute’s applause in Rudge’s memory prior to Saturday’s home game against Barnoldswick Town.

Rudge is survived by wife Edna and children Debbie, Andrew and Helen, to whom Rylands FC wished to send their thoughts, prayers and condolences.