Athletics in mourning for Preston Harriers' coach Bob

Bob Welfare inspired hundreds of youngsters in athletics.
Bob Welfare inspired hundreds of youngsters in athletics.

Tributes have been flooding in following the death of Preston’s “Mr Athletics” Bob Welfare at the age of 73.

The coach, who inspired so many athletes over almost four decades with Preston Harriers, passed away this week after a battle with cancer.

Bob was responsible for launching numerous track and field youngsters to regional, national and international success.

Olympic star Helen Clitheroe wrote on Facebook: “Thanks for all you have done for our amazing club and for athletics. An ever-present person in my own athletic journey from the age of 11. Super supportive always.”

And fellow Olympian, distance runner John Nuttall, said: “Bob was totally dedicated to Preston Harriers and the athletes. It really made a difference to me.”

Bob’s daughter Chris said: “Sadly my dad passed away after a rollercoaster few weeks/months. I would love just one more day with you dad.

"I will miss you loads, but now you are pain free and no longer suffering.”

The news was announced by the club on its website. A statement said: “It is with much sadness that Preston Harriers announce that club secretary and coach Bob Welfare has passed away.

“Bob did so much for this club and athletics, for Lancashire Schools, Lancashire AA, the Mid Lancs League and on wider regional bodies.

"For Preston Harriers he was instrumental in so many initiatives and he was a patient, understanding coach, who adored working with all the juniors over so many years.

"He will be sorely missed by everyone at the club and in the wider athletics community.”

Bob joined Harriers in 1981 as an athlete and was instrumental in setting up the club's junior section. Today Harriers have around 500 members, more than half of those juniors.

"Bob’s strengths were in getting people involved and engaging with them," said fellow coach Pete Hancock.

"He managed to persuade people to become qualified coaches, and qualified officials. He encouraged youngsters to try things they had never done and was a great believer in the value of keeping their options open."