Former Stevenage manager was ‘more popular than me’ – Rock’n’roll star Marty Wilde pays tribute to former roadie

Marty Wilde and Tommy Bickerstaff who became lifelong friends

Marty Wilde and Tommy Bickerstaff who became lifelong friends - Credit: Archant

Rock‘n’roll icon Marty Wilde has paid tribute to his roadie, close friend and former Stevenage Town manager Tommy Bickerstaff, who has died at the age of 82.

Tommy managed the new town side between 1967 and 1968, the first season the club turned professional, but after the death of his wife Pat in the 1990s he went on the road with Marty, becoming indispensable to the singer’s touring crew.

The Teenager in Love singer who lived in Knebworth for many years said: “Tommy started out as someone who gave us a bit of help on the road but it was so very evident he was worth a lot more than that.

“After we finished the shows fans would be all over Tommy outside the stage door. It often seemed he was more popular than me!

“He was a very understated man who had achieved some great things in football and in his life, but he wasn’t the sort of person to brag about it.

“One day we were talking and he told me he once dived into a swimming pool to save a fellow from drowning, he was that kind of guy.

“He was just a wonderful person.”

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Marty said fellow singer Eden Kane, who knew Tommy from his days on the road, also recalled him with fondness.

Tommy played for Glasgow Schools, St Mirren and Crystal Palace in his younger days. Stevenage Town’s financial woes meant the club went into liquidation at the end of his first season but Tommy moved on to manage Cambridge City, taking many of the club’s best players with him.

After retiring from football he became landlord of former King Pin pub in Archer Road. In later years he was a keen member and spectator at Stevenage Town Bowls Club.

His daughter Tricia Kehoe said: “He was amazing, a real gentleman and a really nice man. He was the best dad in the world.”

Tommy, who had been affected by dementia, died peacefully at Wisden Court care home.

He leaves behind a son, two daughters, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

All are invited to attend the funeral at St Andrew & St George Church in St George’s Way, Stevenage, next Thursday, January 28 at 12 noon.

Donations in his memory to Dementia UK will be appreciated.