TRIBUTES have been paid to one of Burnley FC’s best-known supporters, who has died after a long battle with cancer.
Janice Fretwell, 55, was the Burnley Football Supporters' Club treasurer and had helped organise and steward away coach travel for fans for the past 15 years.
She was described as a “tireless worker on behalf of fans” who had shown “great courage and dignity” during her prolonged illness.
Her favourite player, Graham Branch, who played 264 times for Burnley between 1999 and 2007, said he was “devastated” to hear about her death.
Mrs Fretwell, who had fought ovarian cancer for more than nine years, died at her home in Ightenhill on Thursday.
She had continued to watch her beloved Clarets until the final weeks of her life, with the club making special arrangements for her to watch the game in comfort during her final visit to Turf Moor, the recent 2-0 victory against Wolves.
She also travelled to Cardiff for the weekend in October, her final away game.
She organised supporters club player of the year awards was on the testimonial committees for both Jimmy McIlroy and Graham Branch, the latter of whom she formed a close and long lasting friendship.
Mrs Fretwell, who was born in Blackburn and grew up in the Mill Hill area, leaves husband Gary, 57 and son Marc, 28 who is also a keen fan.
Marc said: “She meant so much to so many people.
“My mother wasn’t a fan until her thirties but we both caught the Burnley FC bug while I was little and never looked back.
“She was a passionate fan of the club and a fantastic mum. Although she went through a lot during her illness she was very strong and courageous.
“Even at the start of the week she was in good spirits and seemed to be doing well but things deteriorated quickly.”
Marc said that staff at Christie’s in Manchester had told him his mother’s 11 treatments in the past nine years was the record number of times a patient had undergone that type of therapy.
“That just showed her battling qualities and bravery,” he added.
Mr Branch said: “When I heard about Janice on Thursday night, I just completely broke down.
“We spoke three or four times a week and I was planning to go and see her in the next few days.
“Janice was truly a wonderful woman, a beautiful lady who will be sorely missed.
“She would talk to me and say she felt like giving up, but I tell her that she was loved and needed by too many people.
“At that she would smile and just say ‘yes, you’re right boss’.”
Mrs Fretwell’s other passion was travel and she had visited the USA on several occasions, her favourite place being New York.
Barry Oliver, chair of Burnley Supporters Club said Mrs Fretwell would be missed by many.
He said: “Janice was a very involved and energetic member of the supporters’ club.
“A passionate fan who went to all the games, she was also a very special personality, always smiling and a happy-go-lucky character.”
A Burnley FC spokesman, said: “All the staff and players at the club were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Janice.
“We were aware of her illness and staff here did everything they could to allow to her attend games in comfort.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Gary and Marc at this sad time.”