Tributes after tragic death of footballer, 30

Stephen Connor with wife Nicola on their wedding day
Stephen Connor with wife Nicola on their wedding day

Tributes have been paid to a popular sportsman and newlywed, who died after collapsing during a football match.

Stephen Connor complained of feeling dizzy while playing on Sunday morning for Plough FC against the Half Way House team in the Chorley Nissan Sunday League.

The 30-year-old collapsed on the pitch and two players from Half Way House used CPR to try to resuscitate him.

Stephen was taken to Royal Preston Hospital by air ambulance but died shortly afterwards.

Sam Bolton, who gave CPR, said: “He collapsed on the pitch and we rushed to him and provided CPR.

“It was a mammoth effort from everybody. I’ve known Stephen for a long time. It’s a terrible situation and I’m feeling it badly.”

Stephen – known as Dingle for his lifelong support of Burnley FC – leaves his wife Nicola, who he married just 10 weeks ago at St John’s Church in Whittle-le-Woods.

They enjoyed a honeymoon in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and were planning to start a family.

The couple met while studying at Bangor University and lived in Buckshaw Village.

Nicola said: “He was easy-going and irritatingly laidback. He would do anything for anybody.”

He also leaves his parents, Tricia and Jim Connor, brother Andrew, seven nieces and nephews, and eight godchildren.

Andrew said: “There is a massive, gaping hole left by his absence.

“I see everything now from how he would see it or think how he would find it funny.

“I’m missing him every second.”

Tricia, of Preston Road, Whittle-le-Woods, said: “He was kind-hearted and was always there when we needed him.”

Mystery surrounds how Stephen died and a post-mortem examination will be held this week.

Andrew said: “He has played thousands and thousands of hours on the pitch of different sports and nothing has happened before.”

Stephen attended St John’s Primary School and St Michael’s High School, before studying at Runshaw College.

He worked as an NVQ assessor for Learn Direct.

Stephen devoted much of his free time to playing football, cricket, rugby and other sports.

As well as playing for Plough FC, he was captain of the first team of Whittle And Clayton-le-Woods Cricket Club.

He joined the club as a junior and played a key role, also helping to coach the youth teams and with tasks behind the scenes.

He had recently decided to retire as captain, but would continue playing.

John Cowley, club chairman, said: “I can say, with absolute honesty, that he was probably the nicest lad I have ever been privileged to coach and work with.

“His personality was one of a very warm, open, sincere lad.”

Pete Ingham, committee member of the Palace Shield League, said: “I cannot put into words how upset I am at this tragic news.”

A date has not yet been set for the funeral, but mourners will be asked to wear the colours of Burnley FC or Denver Broncos.