THEY don’t score goals. They don’t even keep them out. They don’t earn the big money. They don’t lap up the adoration of the crowd. But they are the lifeblood of our football clubs, and every so often, they are appreciated as such.

The death of Rangers stalwart Jimmy Bell this week sparked an outpouring of grief and sorrow from fans that is normally reserved for the passing of highly-regarded players or managers. There were flags and strips left outside the famous blue gates at Ibrox – from fans of Rangers, Celtic and other clubs too – and all for a humble kitman. Except, that’s not really all that Bell was or represented.

The voluminous and heartfelt tributes to Bell from former players, some of whom had left Rangers decades before, told you everything you needed to know about how he was regarded. He was the heartbeat of the club, its 'life and soul', as captain James Tavernier put it.

A fan on the inside, diligently working behind the scenes day-in, day-out and doing so to the best of his abilities, and not just because he was being paid for it. But because this was the club he loved.

Bell’s untimely passing drew into sharp focus that a football club is so much more than a squad of players and a manager, each of whom are simply passing through. The one exception perhaps being Lisbon Lion John Clark, the legendary figure who is still in with the bricks at Celtic.

It is the supporters though for the most part, and those fans lucky enough to be on the staff, who are the constant.

There are people with the same drive and dedication to their clubs all over Scottish football. Those who do not seek the limelight, but simply strive every day to make their clubs better. I was fortunate enough to come into contact with some of them last weekend.

When planning a trip to Tannadice for my son, who uses a wheelchair, I had the pleasure of speaking to Moira and Helen in the ticket office, who went above and beyond to ensure that our needs were catered for.

Then, on the day of the match, the stewarding staff could not have been more helpful when it came to getting him into his seat for the game, storing his wheelchair and regularly ensuring that we were well stocked from the snack bar. Perhaps a little too often for my liking, mind you, given the price of Capri Suns in these austere times. The weans were happy though.

They didn’t have to do any of this, and they weren’t seeking thanks for it. They have my gratitude in any case, though, and I’m delighted to have a platform to give them the credit they deserve.

No doubt there will be plenty of you reading this with similar tales of unsung heroes you may have come into contact with on your travels following your team, or you will more than likely know one or two at your own club.

It might be the kitman, the office staff, the tea lady, the chef. The strikers may get the headlines, but these are the people a club simply can’t do without.

The reaction to Bell's death this week brought to mind the sad passing many years ago now of a local legend round Lanarkshire way, Betty Pryde. Quite apart from the illustrious claim to fame of once being my Sunday school teacher, Betty was the secretary to the manager at Motherwell for a decade or so before her passing, aged just 68 in 2009.

But the job title didn’t even begin to accurately describe what Betty did at Fir Park, or what she meant to everyone who had an association with the club.

Terry Butcher, who was manager of Motherwell when the club was in administration, once said that Betty ran the club during those difficult times. The players were known as ‘her boys’.

“All of the players loved her to bits and that was the same with the managers,” said Alan Burrows, now Motherwell chief executive, at the time of her passing.

“It’s safe to say that everybody involved with Betty is devastated.”

It was before my time as a journalist, but colleagues tell me of a warm welcome, a cup of tea and the offer of a biscuit when hanging around to speak to players. A woman who was proud of her club, and wanted it to be represented in the best possible way.

While those who knew her at Motherwell will rightly say they will never see another like her, perhaps there are some of Betty’s characteristics that you recognise in people you know, passionate servants of their own clubs who are so much part of the furniture that it is a jarring shock to the system when they are suddenly no longer there.

Talking about a football club as a ‘family’ can come across as schmaltzy and saccharine, but there would have been plenty of people who may not have known Betty Pryde or Jimmy Bell who would have felt their passing sharply nonetheless, and it is precisely because they shared that one connection; a love for their football club.