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21 Nov 2021 : Linnets' 1990s Wembley favourite Graham Hill passes away

The Linnets are extremely saddened to report that popular former centre half Graham Hill, who twice played in the Yellow and Green at Wembley, has died after a long illness.

Graham, who was in his early 50s, had battled cancer for many years with the same redoubtable spirit and positive attitude that he showed on the football field.

He was very influential in Runcorn AFC reaching successive FA Trophy finals in the 1990s.

The Linnets lost to former Northern Ireland international Martin ONeill's Wycombe Wanderers in '93 and the following year, were beaten by Woking.

On both occasions, Runcorn were big underdogs. Just to reach the twin towers at a time when the club was under financial strife and hit by off-field disasters, including the destruction by fire of their main stand, was a huge achievement.

Graham in many ways epitomised the Linnets' Trophy final teams - genuine, brave, honest and committed.

But he and his team-mates also had ability in abundance, helping the club to punch well above its weight in the fifth tier of English football, the Vauxhall Conference (now known as the National League).

During Graham's time with the Linnets, the 1992 Bob Lord Trophy final was also reached, this being the League Challenge Cup for Conference sides.

Runcorn lost 2-1 on aggregate to Wycombe, having won the first leg at Canal Street 1-0.

Wycombe boss O'Neill reportedly took champagne into the away dressing room at Adams Park after the trophy presentation - such was his admiration for the Runcorn performances.

The Linnets camp around this was a tightly-knit unit, firm and long-standing friendships being formed between the players and management team led admirably by manager, John Carroll.

Graham and Arthur Williams, goalkeeper in both '90s Wembley appearances, had a particularly strong bond. After retirement from playing, they trained racing greyhounds together.

Many of the players, Graham included, were very sadly reunited in tribute to their former boss at John's funeral in 2016.

In the Runcorn Weekly News pre-match edition for the 1993 Trophy final, John described Graham as "an excellent on-field communicator", "a great competitor, strong in the air and a good marker" - in summary, "as good a centre half as there is in the Conference".

Graham joined Runcorn from Curzon Ashton, bringing family, including his parents, as supporters.

He later played against the Linnets for Leigh RMI with whom he had gained promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier Division as Division One runners-up in 1996-97.

The now defunct RMI reached the FA Cup first round in 1998-99, Graham starring in a 1-1 draw at Fulham, big spenders in the Second Division (equivalent of today's Championship).

The Cottagers won the Hilton Park replay 0-2.

Horwich-born Graham was also a good cricketer, playing alongside brother Iain in the Bolton League, mostly for Westhoughton but also Farnworth SC.

Very sadly, Graham developed myeloma, a form of blood cancer, and POEMS syndrome, a rare blood disorder that damages the nerves.

He was unable to stand or walk freely and used a frame.

Before falling ill, he had been a national retail manager for construction services and materials firm, Hilti GB.

Runcorn Linnets send our deepest sympathy to Graham's wife Anne, their son Ryan, other family and friends at this very distressing time.

Photo credit: Runcorn Weekly News.

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