TRIBUTES have been paid to the “irreplaceable” head steward at Wimborne Town who died in hospital after suffering a medical episode before kick-off at a football match on New Year’s Day.

Kevin Hart, 49, collapsed in the entrance to the clubhouse at Magpies’ ground before their Southern League South fixture against Poole Town.

He was treated by medics at Cuthbury and transferred to hospital where he died late on Wednesday evening.

Mr Hart, who lived in Corfe Mullen and worked in the financial sector, had given his time for free at Wimborne Town for more than 20 years.

Ken Stewart, Wimborne Town president, said the volunteer was someone who would do anything for the club and would be impossible to replace.

“He was someone who everyone liked,” said Mr Stewart. “Nothing was too much for him and he would never ask for anything in return.

“It is just such a massive loss for everyone connected to the football club. He was a great man and to pass away at the age of 50 is no age at all.

“Every club needs someone like Kev. There is no one that can replace him. He was just a one off.”

Wimborne Town thanked those who helped during the situation before the match, which saw Magpies win 2-1 but pales into insignificance.

A club statement described Mr Hart, whose first football love was for Tottenham Hotspur, as “part of the furniture”.

His family have launched an appeal in an attempt to get Spurs stars Harry Kane and Dele Alli, his favourite players, to record a video message that could be played at his funeral.

Magpies club captain Scott Arnold said he was “one in a million”.

“He was at the core of the club and completely irreplaceable,” said Mr Arnold.

“Without people like Kev you do not have a club. People that met him always remembered him.

“When you turned up at Cuthbury he was the first face you would see, waving you in while he was on car park duty. Then next thing you know he is around the ground doing stewarding.

“He would be the first person to welcome you and in the bar he was the last person to say goodbye or be the one that is offering you a drink.

“He was so much more than just a steward. He was a good friend as well.”

Messages of good will and support from non-league football clubs from across the south flooded in after the club issued its statement yesterday afternoon.

A minute’s silence will be held at Wimborne Town’s next home match on January 11 and the head steward position will remain vacant for the rest of this season as a mark of respect.

With the wishes of Mr Hart’s family, Wimborne Town will host a celebration of life event at Cuthbury on a date to be confirmed.