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Everton manager Sean Dyche has paid tribute to Bill Kenwright, who died on Monday at the age of 78, calling the late chairman “an amazing servant” to the club.
On Wednesday morning, Dyche and club captain Seamus Coleman laid flowers at the statue of Dixie Dean outside Goodison Park, where the Everton squad were holding a training session.
All players and staff observed a minute’s silence before the session and Kenwright’s image was shown on the stadium’s screens.
Everton announced on Tuesday that Kenwright had died following a battle with cancer.
In a statement on the club website, Dyche said: “It’s a very sad time for everyone at Everton Football Club to lose our chairman, someone who has been such an amazing servant to the club in so many ways.
“His influence in bringing me to Everton in the first place was important and I have nothing but gratitude and respect for his unwavering support of myself, the staff and our players.
“It was a pleasure to share the moment of reaching our objective last season with him – a moment I know he felt so strongly about after such an arduous season, on and off the pitch…
“He was an incredible professional, in terms of what he did with Everton and also what he achieved in the theatre industry. Spending time with him and learning about his family, you couldn’t help but be taken by his passion.”
Dyche was told of the news midway through Tuesday’s training and called an immediate halt to the session as players and staff paid their respects.
Kenwright, who succeeded Sir Phillip Carter as chairman in 2004 after first joining the board at Goodison Park in 1989, had a cancerous tumour removed from his liver in August.
Liverpool-born Kenwright was a successful theatre and film producer when asked to join the Everton board in 1989.
He bought a majority 68 per cent stake in the club in 1999 and became deputy chairman before replacing Carter in his current role.
Dyche added: “Beyond his deep love of his family, one of those big passions, of course, was football – the game as a whole, as well as his obvious lasting love of Everton football club.
“His story – a boyhood supporter who went on to become chairman – is something so rare in the modern game, especially at the top level.
“He always believed in Everton and stood by the club, even in the toughest times. He was steadfast until the very end.
“Like so many who knew him, my heart and my thoughts are with his family at this extremely sad time.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp used his press conference ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash against Toulouse to add his own tribute to Kenwright, adding to that issued by his club on Tuesday.
“The thing that I read recently, obviously, (he had) a massive heart for the city and a massive heart for Everton,” Klopp said.
“But the message he gave around the Hillsborough speech he held that time, I heard about: ‘They chose the wrong city and chose the wrong mums’. That’s a really strong message.
“With all of the rivalry with Everton, especially around the games, I don’t think we have any issues with each other left or right of games. This just shows how united we are in these moments, and that’s really big. He found the right words for it. My condolences to the family. I hope they are okay.”
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