POPULAR AFC Bournemouth player and well-known local football manager, Chris Weller, has died aged 78 after a battle with dementia.

Chris, who played as an inside-forward, enjoyed two spells at Dean Court, before going to manage a number of teams including Bournemouth Poppies, Wimborne Town and Brockenhurst.

Born in Reading on Christmas Day 1939, Chris represented his county at cricket at youth level, but only ever wanted to become a professional footballer.

He signed for Reading and became the youngest player at the age of just 17 to play for the first team at that time.

Chris transferred from Reading to Bournemouth in August 1959. He went on to make his league debut for Cherries in a 3-2 defeat at Notts County the following year.

He featured prominently in the club’s 1961/62 promotion near-miss under Bill McGarry, before moving to Bristol Rovers in June 1965.

After a short spell in the West Country, Chris returned to Cherries on a free transfer in January 1966.

Overall in his career he scored 26 goals in 111 Third Division games.

Chris went on to play for Yeovil Town in June 1967, serving as the leading marksmen in his first season with the club,

He starred in their 1970/71 Southern League title triumph, also helping Yeovil to win at Dean Court in that season’s FA Cup second round.

His tour of the region continued, with spells at Salisbury, Poole Town and Ringwood Town, before he became Holt United’s player-manager.

This led to a dedicated period in football management, including Shaftesbury, Wimborne Town, Brockenhurst and Bournemouth Poppies.

After his playing career came to a close, Chris worked as a self-employed plumber and heating engineer.

Chris met his wife to be Dorli (pictured), while playing for Cherries.

She had come from Austria to work as a hairdresser and met Chris at his birthday party. They went on to marry in Austria in 1966.

The couple moved into their bungalow in Verwood where they started a family, raising daughter Britta and son Kristian.

As well as managing and coaching local sides, Chris was also a very successful youth coach with Grange Athletic up to under 16s, and Parley and Brockenhurst under 18s.

Kristian said Chris loved coaching and enjoyed the fact that he could coach him throughout his youth days and into senior football at Wimborne and Poppies.

“A footballing man, but also a family man and friend to so many,” Kristian said.

“He was the life and soul and has left lasting impressions in so many people’s lives.”

Chris Weller passed away on Monday, June 4, aged 78.

His funeral takes place at 12.30pm on Friday, June 29, at Wimborne Woodland Burial Ground. Family flowers only. Donations, if desired, to Dementia UK.