Rotherham fan with East Lancashire connection thanks travelling Blackburn Rovers support

A Rotherham United supporter has thanked Blackburn Rovers fans for paying their respects to her late father before last Saturday’s Championship encounter at the New York Stadium.

Claire Hudspeth, 52, said she and her mother Anne, who originates from Blackburn, were “really touched” by the tributes paid to her dad.

Claire’s father, Retforth Hudspeth travelled on a Rotherham United Supporters’ Club’s coach to support The Millers in the Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield Town on December 29.

During the return journey, he was taken ill and passed away in hospital on New Year’s Eve.

Claire and Retforth at Wembley when Rotherham reached the League One play-off final in 2018 / Credit: Claire Hudspeth

Retforth, who was 81, was remembered prior to kick-off with a minute’s applause as part of Rotherham’s annual ‘Rotherham Remembers’ tribute, which sees the club pay its respects to United fans who have passed away over the previous 12 months.

Retforth and wife Anne met in 1959, and married three years later. Anne has regularly returned to Blackburn over the years to visit family and friends – some of whom made the journey across the Pennines to be at the match last Saturday.

Rovers fan Alfie Hoole, Retforth’s great nephew, had a banner made which featured the club crests of both Rotherham United and Blackburn Rovers, and read ‘R.I.P Retforth Hudspeth. 11-02-41 – 31-12-22. From your Blackburn family’. The banner was displayed in the Rovers away end and was shown as part of Sky Sports’ live coverage of the game.

“We didn’t know about the banner whatsoever, it was an absolutely lovely surprise. We didn’t know about it all,” Claire said.

On the part the travelling Rovers support played in the tribute to Retforth, Claire said: “Football fans get a bad rep – that we’re all hooligans, [but] there’s not [always] that side to it. People care about people and people [show] respect.

“They might be rivals [Rotherham and Blackburn] because it’s Yorkshire against Lancashire, but it was so warming to us that the Blackburn fans showed their respect.

“It just really, really touched me and my mum, and we’re very thankful.”

Claire and Retforth began following Rotherham over 20 years ago, and journeyed to Wembley in 2018 to witness the South Yorkshire side seal promotion back to the Championship with a 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town in the League One play-off final.

On the help and support The Millers have offered Claire and the rest of Retforth’s family since his passing, Claire said: “Rotherham United have been so good. I can’t believe the support that we’ve had, they’ve just gone beyond what I expected.”

Claire added that Retforth’s family and friends were “absolutely delighted” when the club made them aware of their plans to pay their respects to Retforth.

On the response of the Rotherham fans to the family’s sad news, Claire said: “I put it on the Rotherham United website just to tell people what had happened, and I just can’t believe the response that we got.

“There must have been 400 people that have put their respects on and everything, I was just overwhelmed.

“I just can’t get over the response that we’ve had. It’s been absolutely phenomenal.”