By Duncan Mackay

Tony Larkin head and shouldersApril 1 - Tony Larkin, controversially axed as manager of England and Great Britain blind football team after 17 years earlier this year, has been named as a new patron for British Blind Sports (BBS). 

The former professional footballer, who made over 450 appearances for teams including Wrexham, Shrewsbury Town, Carlisle United and Hereford United, joins five-time Paralympic gold medallist Noel Thatcher and Barcelona 1992 Olympic 400 metres hurdles champion Sally Gunnell as patrons of the Leamington-based charity.

"Tony brings with him a wealth of experience of working with visually impaired athletes, from grassroots level to leading our Paralympic GB blind Football squad in the 2008 and 2012 Games," said Alaina MacGregor, the chief executive of BBS.

"Under Tony's leadership, blind football has grown phenomenally in the UK and what he doesn't know about the game, quite frankly isn't worth knowing.

"His passion for using sport as the mechanism to enhance the lives of visually impaired people stems way beyond football and as a result, I have no doubt in my mind that he will be a great ambassador for the charity as well as a valuable asset to our team and the work we do."

The 57-year-old Larkin has been involved in blind football since 1989 and his first international match was against Spain in Madrid in 1995.

Larkin, head of sport and recreation at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford, was replaced as coach of the England and Britain blind football teams by the Football Association in January after the team finished a disappointing seventh out of eight teams at London 2012.

But his new role gives him something else to focus on.

"It is an honour to be a patron to BBS," he said.

"The success of the Paralympics has thrown out a challenge to BBS and to all of us as a society to build on the legacy and drive real change for blind and partially sighted people in sport."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
January 2013: England and Great Britain blind football team coach axed after 17 years in charge