AS one of Bradford City's best known players, Allan Gilliver made a lasting impression on and off the pitch.

When his football career ended, the man known as Mr Bradford City worked at the club, as groundsman, safety officer, bar supervisor, stadium manager and commercial manager.

At Allan's Testimonial Game at Valley Parade in 1998, former chairman Geoffrey Richmond remarked how he was often seen turning out lights, sweeping up litter and doing odd jobs around the stadium.

By the time he retired in 2007, following a four-decade association with City, Allan, or Gilly as he's known, "knew the place inside out". But when he was last there, watching a match, he got lost. "People kept stopping me to talk, I didn't know where I was meant to be going," he says.

In 2013 Allan discovered he had dementia and that the likely cause is heading the ball - something he did throughout his football career.

"I scored a lot of goals heading the ball, we had heading practice every day," Allan recalls. "It hurt like hell; footballs were much heavier back then and retained moisture."

Leafing through old photographs, Allan, 71, talks fondly of his City days. "I used to line the kids up and sign their photos," he smiles, recalling young autograph-hunters of the 1960s and 70s. But, says his devoted wife, Christine, he can't remember what she told him 10 minutes ago.

Christine, 60, has teamed up with the Alzheimer's Society to organise a Memory Walk in Bradford this Sunday. "There hasn't been one in Bradford for eight years," she says. "The aim is to raise funds and awareness of dementia, which touches many more people as our ageing population grows.

"It's also about highlighting the Alzheimer's Society's invaluable support. It's so important for people looking after someone with dementia - your mum, dad, partner, whoever - to get in touch with the Alzheimer's Society even if they feel, like I did, that they can manage alone. Even if they don't need help now there'll come a time when they will."

It was Christine's sister who noticed Allan's unusual behaviour six years ago. "Her husband had Alzheimer's in his 50s, she knew the signs," says Christine. "Gilly started forgetting things and was saying things that didn't make sense. We went to the doctor and were told it was a 'mild cognitive impairment'.

"He was later referred to Bradford's Memory Assessment and Research Centre and went every six months for mental health tests with a nurse. Eventually I refused to leave until we'd seen a doctor."

In March, 2013 Allan had a brain scan and blood tests and was prescribed medication to stabilise his condition. Three months later he was referred to Lynfield Mount hospital.

"The consultant explained what Gilly's brain scans actually meant. It's vascular dementia which is trauma-related - caused by something," says Christine. "It was only two years ago that anything was explained to us. It's moved on a lot now, and dementia is more talked about, but there's still a long way to go. There are 6,000 people in Bradford living with dementia, a figure that's growing, yet in fundraising terms it's bottom of the pile and people don't understand it. When I tell people about Gilly they say: 'Oh, I have senior moments too, I'm always forgetting my keys'. It's an attitude that belittles this wicked, cruel disease."

Chris and Allan have been contacted by the Jeff Astle Foundation, set up following the death of the soccer star from a brain disease believed to have been caused from repeated football heading.

Born near Sheffield, Allan excelled in football and cricket at school. Spotted by a talent scout aged 15, he was signed to Huddersfield Town in 1961. He played for Blackburn, Rotherham, Brighton and Hove and Lincoln before arriving as a centre forward for Bradford City in 1972. He later played for Stockport County then moved to America to join the Baltimore Comets, returning to City in 1978.

Allan was also a talented cricketer, it was said he could have played at county level if it wasn't for the football. Locally, he played cricket for Brighouse, Manningham Mills and Liversedge.

But Christine had no idea who Allan was when she met him at Valley Parade while promotions manager at the Telegraph & Argus. "Gilly ran City's Junior Bantams club, which had a T&A column," she says. "I knew nothing about football."

That stood her in good stead when she became sales and marketing manager at City. "I was never starstruck by players or passionately involved in games. I kept a cool head," she smiles. "Gilly and I worked together in the Premiership days, it was great."

The couple married in 1995. With a property in Spain, a home in Allerton and four children between them, they have enjoyed many happy years together. "But Gilly talks about things that happened over 30 years ago, but I didn't know him then," Christine says softly. "He can't make decisions anymore. He can't read menus because there's too much choice, he can't choose clothes and he can't drive now. I make all the decisions and plan everything, it's exhausting sometimes. I hate the term 'carer', it strips your identity."

When Christine fell ill last year, she realised she needed help . "We discovered wellbeing cafes and Singing for the Brain sessions, run by the Alzheimer's Society. We go every Thursday. Gilly and I sing for fun at home, it's something we do together. There are also reminiscence sessions where carers have chance to meet up.

"There aren't enough of these services, yet there are increasing numbers of people struggling out there."

Allan's sense of humour, familiar to team-mates over the years, helps him cope. "I acknowledge who I am, but I want to live well," he says.

Those taking part in this weekend's Memory Walk will receive a certificate and badge. "It's 5k - three laps around the park - or however long people can manage," says Christine. "We've got live music from Fascinating Rhythm and I'd love to hear from other bands who'd like to play."

Chloe Hewlett a Dementia Adviser from the Alzheimer’s Society in Bradford, who is part of the group of volunteers and staff organising the Memory Walk, said: “The walk is an opportunity to bring people together to both remember and celebrate those close to them who have had dementia, and to also show you can have a diagnosis and still live well with the condition.   

“We would welcome anyone to come along to walk as short or as far as they would like.”

The Memory Walk is in Lister Park, Manningham, on Sunday, from 11am to 3pm. To register email, call (01274) 586008 or register on the day from 10am.