Tributes have been paid to the former Carlisle United owner John Courtenay, who has died.

The Blues announced that Courtenay had passed away on Saturday aged 70.

The club said Courtenay, who owned the Blues from 2002-4, had been suffering from dementia and had been living in a nursing home in his native Ireland.

United said they sent their "deepest sympathies and condolences" to his family and friends.

Dublin-based Courtenay will be forever remembered as the man who rescued United after the decade-long reign of Michael Knighton had turned sour.

The colourful businessman, who was known to many supporters simply as 'JC', eventually completed a protracted takeover and allowed fans to believe in the Blues' future again.

He was the man who appointed Paul Simpson as manager in 2003, the Cumbrian going on to deliver two stunning promotions after Courtenay had relinquished control of the club to Fred Story following United's relegation to the Conference in 2004.

Courtenay pumped millions into United during a highly eventful two-year tenure, and he was briefly linked with a second period at the helm after Story decided to sell the Blues in 2008.

Although United battled relegation during his time at the helm, they did reach the LDV Vans Trophy final in 2003, losing 2-0 to Bristol City at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The Irishman was always held in high regard by fans as the man who laid the foundations for a brighter future, and United officials tonight paid tribute.

Chairman Andrew Jenkins said: “I got on extremely well with John. He was a very likeable character who could hold a room with his stories.

“He was always described as larger than life and I think everyone will agree that was a very fair description.

“I’d like to say a thank you to him for everything he did for the club. He wanted the best for Carlisle United and it’s a shame that it didn’t work out for him.

“His enthusiasm was infectious and those who worked with or alongside him were desperate to see him get the success he so dearly wanted.

“I pass on the sympathies of those at the club to his family, friends and loved ones at this sad time.”

Long-serving club secretary Sarah McKnight said Courtenay had been "a breath of fresh air at exactly the right time for the club"

She added: "I'll always remember his response to anything that seemed like a problem was to tell us that there was no such word as 'can't' as far as he was concerned.

"He insisted that there was always a way to sort everything. He was always happy and he put everybody in a good mood with his positivity and his smile."

Media officer Andy Hall added that Courtenay was a forward-thinking owner who helped the club move into a new age of media and public relations.

"His 'get it done' approach rubbed off on everyone and he effectively let us get on with it, as long as he saw results," Hall said. "He was a pleasure to work for."

Courtenay, whose business interests included the Umbro franchise in Ireland, was known for his passionate approach and was famed for sharing a pint with fans - as well as making some entertaining co-commentary contributions on BBC Radio Cumbria.

He had initially taken interest in the Cumbrians after fellow Irishman Roddy Collins, then United's manager, alerted Courtenay to the possiblity of Knighton seeking to sell the club.

Supporters' trust CUOSC also paid tribute to Courtenay, saying the businessman had played an influential part in the trust gaining a shareholding in the Blues.

They tweeted: "Very sad news. Condolences to his family from all at CUOSC. Without JC we may never have achieved a shareholding in the club. Did his very best to turn CUFC around when it was struggling badly."

Courtenay's son Jonathan has expressed his thanks to United fans for their messages.

"Thanks to all the @officialcufc fans and followers for the kind words and tributes - from John's family in Dublin," he posted on Twitter.

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