Alan Williams has bowed out after one of longest stints of unbroken service in local football with words of support from Sir Alex Ferguson imprinted on his mind.

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When Alan relinquished the Norwich Sunday League treasurer’s post it marked the end of 53 years of continuous service in various official capacities.

And Fergie, himself no stranger to long service with 26 seasons already as Manchester United manager under his belt, was delighted to add his own best wishes. In a letter, presented to Alan by league officials at a thankyou dinner on Friday, Sir Alex, the longest-serving current manager in British professional football, says:

“Dear Alan, I have recently been informed of your forthcoming retirement by Ben and I just thought I would drop you a line. I know that you will be missed by your colleagues. I am sure you will have some great memories and many a tale to tell.

“On a personal note I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your loyal support and devotion to the club over the years and I wish you a long and happy retirement.”

Alan, 80, who has been made a life vice-president of the league he helped to form in 1958, said: “It was a lovely surprise – a great gesture. I have been a Manchester United supporter ever since the Munich air disaster. I remember getting the York Athletic players to wear black armbands.”

League secretary Ben Casey said: “I am well aware Alan is a big Manchester United fan so I decided to get in touch with the club on the off-chance. I was amazed to get a signed reply back from the great man himself by the end of the week.”

At the dinner at Park Farm Hotel, Hethersett, league chairman Paul Ballard and league president Ray Kiddell, added their own tributes. Alan, who received a cheque as a gift, has handed over the reins as treasurer after 28 years to Nick Everett.