TRIBUTES have flooded in from across the town following the death of Swindon Council’s head of leisure, Roger Byrne, who has died at the age of 53.

Roger Jnr, son of former Manchester United captain and Busby Babe Roger Byrne, who died in the Munich air crash in 1958, had worked for the council for more than 20 years.

His father was one of 23 passengers, including eight football players and eight sports journalists, on board the Elizabethan charter aircraft G-ALZU that died when it crashed on take-off. He died not knowing that his wife Joy was expecting their first son.

Roger Jnr, whose wife Gill also works for Swindon Council, died early yesterday morning following a battle with cancer.

His colleagues at the council paid tribute to his professionalism and dedication.

Bernie Brannan, Swindon Council’s director of housing, leisure, libraries and culture, said: “I worked with Roger for many years and he was a great friend as well as a much valued colleague.

“He was a hugely popular and well respected figure with everyone he made contact with, a true gentleman who I will miss dearly.

“I am deeply saddened by this news and my thoughts are with Gill and his family at this very sad time.”

Coun Keith Williams, cabinet member for leisure and corporate services, said: “Having worked with Roger over the past few years I was very sorry to hear the news this morning.

“Roger was one of the most open, upbeat and professional people I have had the fortune to know. He had a genuine passion for his job and serving the sporting community in Swindon. My sincerest condolences go to Gill at this difficult time.”

Roger was Link Centre co-ordinator from 1990 to 1994.

It was there that he met More FM radio presenter Howard Taylor, who was working as entertainments manager at the centre., and the pair have remained good friends for the past 20 years, exchanging banter over football rivalries.

Howard said: “Roger was one of the nicest blokes you could ever meet – sometimes he was annoyingly nice!. He was never one to engage in negativity when talking about others, he would always find the good in people.

“We became really good friends. Obviously, he was a Manchester United fan through and through, but being a London boy, I’m a Chelsea fan so Roger never missed an opportunity for a little dig.

“Whenever I saw him, I would always get a big smile, a shake of the hand and then he would just lay in to me about my choice of team.

“He was convinced one day I would switch my allegiance.

“A lot of people in Swindon will have benefitted from his work, his strategies and his management without knowing he was behind it all.

“He was a pleasure to know – you would never see him without a smile on his face.

“This is a huge loss to all his family and friends and to Swindon Council.”