TRIBUTES have been paid to a lifelong Rovers supporter who died suddenly.

Rovers fan Nigel Hardman, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer over a year ago, died at around 9.20am on Sunday at his home on Ribble Avenue in Freckleton.

In his final moments, the 55-year-old, who grew up in Darwen, managed to watch Rovers’ opening game of the season against Ipswich Town on a laptop with his daughter, Kim.

The devoted fan had had a Rovers season ticket since the age of four. He also travelled far and wide to see the former Premier League side play in Europe.

Nigel’s family had bought tickets to see Rovers play Nottingham Forest at Ewood Park in a box in September and were due to meet the first team at pitchside.

Rovers legend Colin Hendry was also due to give him a signed shirt.

The club has agreed to put a tribute to Nigel in the programme for Saturday’s home match against Millwall.

The father-of-two was described by Kim, 30, as a positive and funny father, who always had a smile on his face.

Kim, who lives with her 33-year-old sister Sara and 53-year-old mother Berni, said: “My dad was very popular and well known in the village. He was nicknamed ‘big Nigel’ because he was quite big.

“He was dead chilled and laid back and there’s no doubt he has a left a big hole in the village. He was also a loving guy that would do anything for anyone.

“He was like a second dad to my best friend. Just kind and caring.”

Before the former driving instructor was diagnosed with kidney cancer back in February 2017 he had spent most of his life living in Warton, a village which neighbours Freckleton.

At the age of 16 he left Kirkham Grammar School and went on to study at Blackpool College before training to become a welder and start his own company as a driving instructor called Nigel’s Driving School in Preston for more than 10 years.

His wife Berni added: “One of the fondest moments together was when we renewed our wedding vows in the back garden two months ago. I will miss him dearly.”