United’s stalwart supporter ‘Old George’ dies

George Bateman at the Manor Ground in 1989 following the Hillsborough tragedy

George Bateman at the Manor Ground in 1989 following the Hillsborough tragedy

First published in United News

HE was a familiar sight at hundreds of Oxford United games over the years, known for his distinctive trilby and white coat.

And George Bateman’s family and those at the club have paid tribute to the stalwart supporter who has died aged 96.

His nephew Keith Wharton, 60, said last night: “He lived a very simple life but he was a sociable man, everyone knew old George.

“The memories that stand out will always be going to United matches with him and when he used to take me, my brother and my sister down to the Crown and Thistle, in Headington, every Sunday.

“Even when we got older and stopped going, he still went with the dog.”

Mr Bateman, who lived in Bateman Street, Headington, helped build the club’s former Manor Ground home at Headington and also spent many years selling poppies for the British Legion for Armistice Day.

His nephew said Oxford United had been “his passion” and said: “He got his love of the club from his father Albert, who had been captain of Headington United [which later became Oxford United].

“He never played, but he was a happy steward and was always prominent at matches in his trilby and white coat.”

Herald Series:

Nephew Keith Wharton with some of his uncle’s memorabilia

Mr Bateman, who never married, is particularly remembered by many fans for spending the 1986 Milk Cup final between Oxford United and Queens Park Rangers in a London hospital because he fell down a flight of stairs at Wembley stadium, said United fan Keith Haines.

Mr Haines said: “George was an old soldier, with a loud voice just like that of a major.”

Oxford United secretary Mick Brown said: “George was a smashing guy and a real larger-than-life steward.”

Mr Bateman had been a steward of Oxford United since it first went professional and changed its name from Headington United in 1959.

He continued in that role until the club moved to its current ground at the Kassam Stadium in 2001.

Morris Edmunds, 81, was a steward with Mr Bateman from 1968 and also a press worker at the Morris plant in Cowley, where Mr Bateman worked in the paint shop.

He said: “When I started at United, George was already there.

“His favourite spot when we were working was the London Road entrance to the Manor. He’d stand there on match days and I got to know him because my wife, Sheila, did the catering so our car was let through.

“Because he was a bachelor my wife would take him half a box of cakes over and he’d always say ‘thank you lady’.

“And when we all went off somewhere together he’d always turn up at the coach in his Volkswagen Beetle and we’d all give him a cheer.”

The last game he attended, for his 90th birthday, was on October 20, 2007, Oxford United versus Woking. The two sides drew 0-0.

Mr Bateman died on April 24. His two sisters, Elsie and Beatrice, died before him.

His funeral will take place at Headington Cemetery, in Dunstan Road, on May 12 at 1pm. Family and friends are welcome to attend.

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