“He was always positive, welcoming and a true supporter of this football club – I will always remember laughing with him!”

Eddie Howe has given a moving tribute to former Cherries groundsman and referee liaison officer John Harriss, who passed away on Sunday, aged 88.

John, who first started watching from the terraces at Dean Court in 1939, joined the staff in 1970 and spent 37 years tending the pitch.

He died at home just hours after watching on television as Cherries toppled Premier League big guns Arsenal, one of the Dorset club’s most famous victories.

Howe said: “I spoke to John on Friday and he said he wouldn’t be at the game but would be watching. It’s a nice thought to think that was the last game he saw.

“What a character! I will always remember laughing with him about so many different things and that laughter and spirit will remain with me.

“His loss is very sad and will affect a lot of people. Our thoughts are with his wife Deirdre and we would like to send our condolences to her and the family.”

John took his first steps as a groundsman during his National Service at Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain before joining Cherries as assistant and then head groundsman.

In 2013, his contribution to the club was recognised when he was awarded with a high commendation for the Unsung Hero Award at the Football League Awards in London.

Howe, one of 19 managers he worked alongside, added: “Football clubs are brought together by a lot of different things but people really make them.

“One of my first memories of coming to this club was meeting a groundsman who was obsessed with his pitch and who didn’t want anyone on it.

“He would shout at you for stepping on it, as would most groundsmen, but he had a warmth about him that was different to anyone I had met before.

“Knowing John over a long period of time and seeing him at different stages of his life, he was unique in the fact that he was always positive, always welcoming and was a true AFC Bournemouth supporter.

“We will miss him greatly on matchdays. I used to phone him regularly during the week to talk football and will miss those calls as well.”

Keen to stay involved with the club, John took up a role looking after referees on matchdays and had recently been presented with a shirt by Premier League official Lee Probert as a mark of their thanks to him.

Howe added: “It’s never an easy job when you have managers wanting to vent their frustration at referees but John would always be in the middle mediating!

“The biggest compliment I can give him is every referee who came back here would greet him with a hug and a smile and they would talk about old times. He will be missed by everyone.”