The grief-stricken family of a Stoke City fan have described his sudden death as a ‘huge loss’ to Staffordshire’s grass-roots football.
Dean Arnold’s loved ones have spoken out as details of his funeral have been released.
The 49-year-old – nicknamed Deano Mourinho – was best known as the manager of Uttoxeter Town FC but he also played cricket for Staffordshire and followed the Potters religiously.
Wife Helen, who has been married to Dean 16 years, told BurtonLive: “He had the best sense of humour that anyone could have and the best smile.
“He loved karaoke and it didn’t matter where he was, he’d light up the room.
“There was never a dull moment with Dean – he was always so jolly and used to say ‘whatever it is, don’t let it ruin your day’.
“I can remember one time I drove for 18 hours to France with the kids and Dean flew there and asked me to pick him up.
“He told me to have an ice cold beer waiting for him.
“He was a real cheeky chappy. ‘Babe’ was his favourite word and everybody would do anything for him if he stuck a ‘babe’ on the end. He was amazing.”
Helen, aged 45, shares son George, aged 15, and daughter Ella-Mae, aged 10, with Dean and says they are all ‘heartbroken’.
She said: “He was a brilliant dad and would love to spend time watching and teaching George to play football.
“Ella-Mae was always on his knee.
“She was a proper daddy’s girl and he called her his princess.
“We all loved him to bits.”
Dean was born in Carter Street and grew up in Uttoxeter, where he attended Picknalls first, Oldfields Hall Middle School and Thomas Alleyne’s High School.
But he was best known for his role in the community and combined his passion for football with his job at haulage firm Kuehne and Nagel.
His good friend, Peter Clewer, who is chairman of Uttoxeter Town, had the pleasure of playing alongside Dean, as well as managing him.
He said Dean’s ‘infectious personality’ brought success and he has left a legacy at the club.
The 66-year-old said: “He had the best left foot Uttoxeter has ever seen. He was dangerous.
“Originally he started playing for the team on a Sunday morning, before he went on to manage the Sunday side.
“It was there that he took the team to another level.
“He took every cup from Burton between 2010 and 2011.
“After that, we reached the pinnacle and he started to manage the reserves on a Saturday.
“We converted the ground so there were floodlights and stands and he was instrumental in that.
“When the club had some financial difficulties and the manager of the first team stepped down, Dean stepped in and has been there for the last five years.
“He’s left us with a legacy, because if we finish in the top four, which is quite likely, we’ll be promoted.
“The greatest aim we have ever had as a club is to be in the FA cup and if we’re promoted we will be.
“That’s amazing for a little old town like Uttoxeter.
“Football was Dean’s life. His personality was infectious and he was so enthusiastic.
“He was even nicknamed ‘Deano Mourinho’ at one time.
“He was so animated on the sidelines. That’s how he was as a player and that’s how he wanted people to play.
“His attitude and love for the game brought Uttoxeter great success.”
While football was a big part of Dean’s life, he was also a fan of other sports, including darts, horse racing and he played cricket for Staffordshire County.
Dean also played football alongside his ‘brother and best friend’ Rob, aged 55.
Helen said: “They were two peas in pod, they were inseparable.
“They were more than just brothers, they were best friends.
“They spoke every day and saw each other every Saturday and Sunday without fail.”
Sadly on February 28, Dean suffered a heart attack at his home and died suddenly.
Helen, who is the office manager at Oulton First School in Stone, said the family have been overwhelmed with support since her husband’s death and she has thanked well-wishers for their kindness.
She said: “It’s a massive loss for the town, but an even bigger loss for all of us.
“We really want to say a big ‘thank you’ to everybody for their kind words – the support’s been amazing and it’s been such a comfort.
“He was always at the heart of the community, especially the football community, and we’ll remember him for his smile.”
Dean’s funeral will be held on Friday, March 20 at 11am at St Mary’s Church, in Uttoxeter.