Obituary: Billy Conroy, footballer

William ‘Billy’ Conroy, who has died at 66, was a Harrogate sportsman who played a part in the history of both of the town’s football clubs.

Billy Conroy

William ‘Billy’ Conroy, who has died at 66, was a Harrogate sportsman who played a part in the history of both of the town’s football clubs.

After starting his career as a schoolboy at Manchester United in 1971, he went on to become a player at Harrogate Railway in the 1980s and held a significant role within the management team at Harrogate Town in decade following.

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A talented forward and keen all-rounder, he was renowned from an early age for his zest for life, self-confidence and commitment.

He had been spotted while still at St John Fisher Catholic High School in Harrogate, by his teacher, Max Mills, who alerted the staff at Old Trafford to his potential.

Freshly signed as a 15-year-old apprentice by Sir Matt Busby, the early days saw him train with such club legends as Bobby Charlton and George Best.

He made his debut for the national team against Holland, scoring a goal for England Schoolboys in front of a Wembley crowd of 55,000, before going on to win further international caps.

After moving to New Zealand as a professional footballer in the 1970s, he returned to Harrogate and become a key figure at Harrogate Railway, then at Town.

Later years saw him adopt a variety of careers, from running pubs – including the Travellers Rest in Harrogate – to roofing, before becoming a director of Maxspray UK in Harrogate in semi-retirement.

In later years, he continued to play football and golf, but two hip operations eventually took their toll. It was while playing golf that he died suddenly, despite being airlifted to hospital.

He is survived by his partner, Isobel, children Joanna and Louise, stepson Joe and three grandchildren.