A COACH at Oxford United's Under 14s Academy who died suddenly last week will be remembered by colleagues as an "exceptional" team member.

Randal (corr) Bates, 53, was taken ill on the evening of Tuesday, January 26, just a day after a triumphant away game at Swindon.

Mr Bates started coaching at Oxford United in 2011 after a spell training the ladies' team at Oxford City.

During his time at the academy he worked with four different squads, totalling about 60 promising young footballers including youth team scholars who have already been given a professional contract.

According to fellow coach David Clark, a number of the players under his tuition could feature for the club's first team over the next 10 years.

Mr Clark said: "Randal was one of the best coaches I have worked with. He had an unbelievable eye for detail and his reading of the game was exceptional.

"He understood how difficult it was to become a professional footballer and would always insist on the highest standards, on and off the field, from his players. He wanted to help players be the very best they could be."

He added that Randal was "the sort of bloke that would do anything for anybody" who loved talking about football and was well-known by the community in and around Oxfordshire. The pair last saw each other the day before Mr Randal fell ill, during an away game at Swindon where Oxford won 3-1.

He said: "We were both really buzzing after an excellent performance and were looking forward to the rest of the season.

"Needless to say we are all very shocked and saddened by his untimely death and our thoughts go out to his wife and children."