Tragic sports fan a ‘delightful character’

POIGNANT: Mourners, some dressed in Burnley colours, carry the coffin of Stephen Connor yesterday
POIGNANT: Mourners, some dressed in Burnley colours, carry the coffin of Stephen Connor yesterday
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It was standing room only at a Chorley church as hundreds of mourners bid farewell to a newlywed sportsman, who died at the age of 30.

Stephen Connor, who lived in Buckshaw Village, died on December 8. He collapsed while playing football for Sunday league team Plough FC and was rushed to hospital, but died shortly afterwards.

Fellow footballers were among the mourners at St John The Evangelist Church, in Whittle-le-Woods yesterday, as well as members of Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods Cricket Club, where he was first team captain. Many wore the colours of Stephen’s beloved Burnley FC.

The funeral was led by the Reverend Philip Venables, who described Stephen as a “delightful character” with a “lovely smile”.

Stephen’s older brother, Andrew, spoke about the day he was born and the close bond between them, even as they grew older and left home.

Despite having dyslexia, Stephen, nicknamed ‘Dingle’, was determined to succeed and achieved a sports science degree.

In his career, he helped people gain vocational qualifications and assisted young people hoping to join the Army.

Stephen had a wide circle of friends, was always available to help parents Jim and Tricia, and was a “brilliant brother”, Andrew said.

He added: “He knew what was important - his family, friends and generally having a good time.”

Dean McIver was best man at Stephen and Nicola’s wedding and said he did not expect to be back at the church 82 days later.

He said Stephen was “kind, honest and always showed a selfless attitude to others”.

Dean said: “I know in future, when I face tricky decisions, I will ask myself, ‘What would Ding do?’ and I’m pretty certain I will make the right choice.”

John Cowley, chairman of Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods Cricket Club, joked about the number of Preston North End football fans wearing Burnley FC colours for Stephen.

In a letter read by Rev Venables, wife Nicola said seeing Stephen in church on their wedding day had made her nerves disappear.

The letter added: “I just hope that every decision I make will make you proud.”