Douglas Cromb.

Businessman and former Hibernian chairman.

Born: 20 March, 1931;

Died: 21 January, 2015.

FORMER Hibernian chairman Douglas Cromb, who has died aged 84 following a short illness, always described himself as a Hibs supporter rather than a Hibs fan. It was a worthy distinction to make, since he supported the club both financially and by the giving of his time during a long connection with the Easter Road club.

He was popular with the ordinary supporters, who saw him as one of them. He was always approachable, ready to listen to their concerns, no matter how trivial they might appear, and he was seen as a fan first and a board member second.

He joined the club's board in 1988 and perhaps owed his elevation to the chairmanship to his support for Sir Tom Farmer's purchase of the club in the early 1990s, when the Hands Off Hibs campaign successfully fought off the bid by Wallace Mercer, the then Chairman of Hearts, to take over the club and amalgamate them with Hearts.

Leith-born Farmer eventually bought the club, but, having little or no interest in football himself, and with his own huge business to manage, he invited Hibs men such as Douglas Cromb to run the club on a day-to-day basis.

Cromb went on to play a leading role in events around Easter Road, with the support of another Hibs man, vice-chairman Kenny McLean, whom he had met through Hibs' businessman's organisation, The 50 Club.

He and Mr McLean were also the instigators of Club 86, the organisation which initially funded the establishment of the club's legendary youth training set-up. The initial idea was, to get enough well-heeled Hibs fans to sign up to putting at least £86 per year into youth development.

These were sometimes difficult years for Hibs. The League Cup win of October 1991, was one bright spot, but some of the Hibs' fans, brought up on tales of the swashbuckling Famous Five of the 1950s and Turnbull's tornadoes 20 years later, were far from happy with the pragmatic play of manager Alex Miller's team. There was a continuing undercurrent of supporter unrest for Cromb (a strong supporter of manager Miller) and his fellow directors to deal with.

Miller said: "Douglas was the ideal chairman, he was very supportive, a great sounding board; he was always approachable and he never forgot, when dealing with the fans, he had started on the terraces; while I have never forgotten the way he supported me."

Off the field, the board was fire-fighting the long-term effects of the disastrous financial policies of the pre-Farmer era under chairman David Duff, while also having to deal with ground re-development to meet the demands of the Taylor Report.

There were suggestions that Hibs might leave Easter Road for nearby Meadowbank; the idea of a greenfield site new ground at Straiton, which he initially supported, was mooted, then abandoned, before Cromb and his board set in motion the re-development of "the Leith San Siro", turning it into a modern all-seater ground, and doing away with the famous slope.

This was a long-term project and while Cromb was in at the start, he had retired from the board before the re-development was completed in 2005.

He retired as chairman in 1997, just after the club had survived a nerve-jangling promotion/relegation play-off against Airdrieonians. He might have stood down as chairman, but Cromb continued on the board for a time, before retiring completely, to return to being an ordinary Hibs supporter.

During his time on the board and as chairman, he had represented the club on both the Scottish League management committee and the SFA Council, where, as a member of the International Committee, he was heavily involved in Scotland's preparations for the 1998 World Cup in France.

Like many, he had fallen in love with Hibs while watching the Famous Five work their magic in the post-war era. In particular, he idolised Gordon Smith.

He once memorably, as passions were fired around the club, described some Hibs fans as "morons and bigots", but, in time, this uncharacteristic outburst was excused and since his passing, his contribution to and deep love for the club has been recognised by warm tributes from the ordinary supporters on fan websites.

Born and raised in the west of Edinburgh, he had followed family tradition and been a career soldier. Returning to his native Edinburgh on leaving the Army in 1955, he set up - in "enemy" territory - the firm of Innes & Cromb, importing and exporting tartan goods, which still operates today out of premises in Gorgie Road, near Tynecastle.

Cromb was pre-deceased, five years ago, by his German-born wife Lotti, whom he had met when she was a BAOR translator. He is survived by his daughter Nicole and his sister Norma and his grand-daughter Kristina.