He was a man who gave so much to Carlisle United.

And now David Wilkes has a permanent place at Brunton Park thanks to a poignant tribute to the much-missed coach.

United’s recently-created memory garden, close to the East Stand, now has a bench which features a plaque in memory of Mr Wilkes, who died last summer aged 59.

The bench has been installed thanks to the help of United’s former players’ association.

Mr Wilkes’ family, including daughters, Laura and Rebecca, were invited to see the tribute for the first time on Saturday at Brunton Park.

The plaque bears the inscription: ‘In loving memory of David Wilkes – your stoic character and lifelong dedication to football has touched so many’.

News and Star: The inscription on the bench dedicated to David Wilkes at Brunton ParkThe inscription on the bench dedicated to David Wilkes at Brunton Park (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Also there to witness the official unveiling were Wilkes’ close friend and former manager at Carlisle, Mick Wadsworth.

He was joined by former United midfielder Paul Murray, one of the many stars of Wilkes’ Brunton Park youth system in the 1990s.

Murray was instrumental in arranging the tribute, with Colin Carter, who is heavily involved with the ex-players’ association, also on hand for the unveiling on Saturday – as were some of those who built the memorial garden, including Carlisle builders James and George Falder.

News and Star: David Wilkes' daughters Laura and Rebecca on the bench dedicated to their dadDavid Wilkes' daughters Laura and Rebecca on the bench dedicated to their dad (Image: Ben Holmes)

United’s finance director Suzanne Kidd and secretary Sarah McKnight also visited the memorial as it was revealed on Saturday.

Mr Wilkes’ daughter Laura said the whole family deeply appreciated the gesture.

“A huge thanks to the club, to Paul and the former players’ group, and everyone who has been involved in arranging this,” she said.

“It really means so much to us as a family.

“For everybody who loves and cares for dad and his memory, this is a nice area where anyone can come, and sit, and have a moment to reflect and remember.

“A heartfelt and sincere thank you to everyone who has made this happen.”

Mick Wadsworth, a fellow Barnsley native who knew David Wilkes for most of his life, said of the memorial garden and tribute: “What a wonderful job everyone has done with it – it’s a wonderful sanctuary.

News and Star: David Wilkes died last June aged 59David Wilkes died last June aged 59 (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“We can all remember some special times with Dave, but this is more than that – it’s the culmination of the best part of 27 years’ service to the club.

“That doesn’t happen in football very often. It’s a lovely remembrance of him, and hopefully there will be more things that we can do in the future in Dave’s name.

“I think he’d be touched by this – and I’m sure he is looking down and is touched. Deep down, he was a really gentle soul with a great heart. He was a very compassionate person.

“He was a team player in every sense, and often, I think, under-appreciated by a lot of people around him. That’s not a criticism of anyone, but a lot of people in football look for plaudits and affirmation, but Dave just got on with his job.

“It was an endearing quality and it was part of his nature and part of his approach not just to football but to life generally.”

Paul Murray said discussions are taking place about a charity game in Mr Wilkes’ memory, although the prospects of this happening at Brunton Park this summer could be affected by the major renovation work set to take place in a number of areas of the stadium.

“I just felt we needed to do something for Dave,” added Murray about the bench tribute.

“He’s affected so many lives and careers in a positive way, and effectively made millions for the club over the years.

“This is the least we could do for him – and it’s just the right thing to do for someone who gave so much for the club.

“The former players’ group brought in some funds through our game at Penrith last year and we decided to use some of that money for this in memory of Dave.

News and Star: The bench is in the memory garden which was recently installed at Brunton ParkThe bench is in the memory garden which was recently installed at Brunton Park (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“He’s been such a big part of my life. Who knows if I’d still be doing what I’m doing in football [Murray is academy manager and a first-team coach at Oldham Athletic] and if I’d have had the career I had if he hadn’t taken me on at such a young age at Carlisle.

“I know the family appreciate the bench and that’s the best thing about it.”

Fans of Carlisle United and Barnsley - two clubs central to Mr Wilkes' career - held a minute's applause in the 59th minute of last month's League One game between the teams at Oakwell, with several of his family members attending the game.

The Flags for United group also presented a banner celebrating Mr Wilkes' contribution to United to his family.

The memory garden at Brunton Park was recently installed through a project involving supporters' groups (CUSG) volunteers, Cumberland Youth Justice Service and local businesses.

Organisations who helped also included MKM Building Supplies, Capstick Nursery and AW Jenkinson.