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RIP Rob Spray: The Hawthorns pays tribute after Bulgaria death

By Megan Archer | West Bromwich | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Albion fans paid tribute to season ticket holder Rob Spray tonight during the first home game since his death in Bulgaria.

A tribute to 32-year-old season ticket holder Rob Spray was shown in the 32nd minute of the match. Photo: AMA

Baggies and Barnsley fans joined together in applause as images of Mr Spray were shown on the big screen at The Hawthorns in the 32nd minute of the match.

Earlier the club provided a signed shirt which Mr Spray's friends draped over his seat at the back of the Birmingham Road End before raising it up during the minute's applause as fans sang 'The Lord's My Shepherd'.

The 32-year-old from Heath Hayes in Cannock died in Sofia while on a trip with his friends to watch England's Euro 2020 qualifying match against Bulgaria on October 14.

A signed shirt is held aloft by friends of Mr Spray in the Birmingham Road End

The circumstances around his death remain unclear, with Bulgarian authorities saying he died in transit to a police station after earlier being found in a "helpless condition".

Mr Spray's parents Jillian and Malcolm were invited to attend tonight's game, which ended 2-2, along with sister Katie Brown and other family members.

Paying tribute in the matchday programme, Miss Brown said: “Rob was such a lovely man, a gentle giant really, and he was absolutely obsessed with the Baggies. He followed them home and away and was really devoted.

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“He just loved this place (The Hawthorns) and knew everything there was to know about the club. His football knowledge always amazed us.

"He could answer any question about any football, really, but it was the Albion that he loved.

“We’re all going to miss him terribly and we can’t thank everyone enough for the support and the help they have given us.

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"The tributes from everyone are really appreciated and sum up Rob perfectly - he was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful son, brother and uncle.”

According to Bulgarian authorities, Mr Spray died while being transported to a police station having become aggressive in hospital after being found in the street on the morning of the match.

However Mr Spray's friends say he was fine when they last saw him and that he was not an aggressive person.

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A petition calling for a full investigation into the circumstances around Mr Spray's death has been signed by more than 11,000 people, while more than £25,000 have donated to a fundraiser set up to support his family.

After the initial £10,000 target to repatriate Mr Spray's body was broken, the remaining money is set to be spent on hiring a private investigator.

“We just want help," Miss Brown said.

"My brother was not a football hooligan. If someone had run at him to hit him he would have run the other way. We just want to know what happened, we’re not getting any answers. We can’t believe we’re not being told anything at all.”

Mr Spray's family say they have been left "in limbo" and do not feel they have been supported by UK authorities since his death.

In a statement, the family said: "The family and friends and family of Rob Spray are left in limbo with a lack of support from various officials whether it being Bulgarian officials or the UK government.

"We deserve a full investigation in the suspicious activities surrounding Rob’s passing and to find out the truth so justice can be had and his family can rest."

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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