Tributes have been paid to a former Chorley FC and Bamber Bridge player who died in his sleep.
Lee Pryers was found dead at home by his father, John, at his flat on Smethurst Road, Bolton, on July 26.
The 31-year-old played over 100 games during two spells at Bamber Bridge and spent a season at Victory Park with Chorley FC.
The full back’s career, which began as a trainee at Bolton Wanderers, also included a two-year stint at Fleetwood Town, where he worked under Tony Greenwood, who took him back to Irongate in 2009.
A minute’s silence was observed before last week’s pre-season friendly game between Bamber Bridge and Chorley at Irongate.
Bamber Bridge director of football, George Halliwell, said: “It’s devastating news, especially coming so soon after our former chairman Dennis Allen, who died three weeks ago.
“Lee was a very quiet lad who kept himself to himself in the dressing room, and expressed himself on the pitch more than off it. I know he was very well thought-of at Bamber Bridge.”
Chorley FC Chairman Ken Wright said: “He was a good player – quick, tenacious and strong running. A lot of the supporters still remember him.”
Bamber Bridge manager Neil Crowe said: “He was an attacking full back with a good left foot on him, and he had the energy to get up and down the pitch. He looked after himself and was a fitness fanatic. He’s very well remembered by the supporters, because he always gave 100 per cent.”
Chorley FC midfielder Tom Williams said: “I played with him at Bamber Bridge and he would offer advice and encouragement. When you’re young and starting off it’s a massive help.”
“I only found out about it 15 minutes before kick-off at Bamber Bridge, and it knocked me sideways. Having only just been told the minute’s silence was tough”
Lee was brought up in the Daubhill area of Bolton by his parents John and Sheree, with brothers Johnny, 34, and Craig, 27.
Johnny said: “We were best mates growing up, we would always be out together. As we got older he got into his football and I got into my own interests, but we would always stick together. Lee would do anything for anybody.”
Lee began playing football aged nine, for St Bede CE Primary School, and also played for Bolton Lads Club.
He joined Bolton Wanderers as a trainee and rose through the ranks to the club’s reserve team, where his boots were cleaned by the young trainee Kevin Nolan, who went on to play in the Premier League for Bolton.
Johnny said: “Lee was round here last week, and we were in the kitchen singing along to the Small Faces. He seemed happy as Larry. He was doing his window cleaning, which he loved, and he was helping a few local teams with their training.
“He was doing some youth work, too. On Tuesday morning he didn’t come down to collect his clothes and we thought something was wrong.
“We got into the flat using the spare key, and my dad just found him there, passed away.”
An inquest has been opened at Bolton Coroners Office.
The family hope as many people as possible will attend the funeral to remember Lee’s life.
Johnny said: “It’s going to be absolutely massive, there’s going to be thousands there to pay their respects.
“We’ve had hundreds of cards and flowers, people he played with have been dropping in, and we’ve had people coming round who we haven’t seen in 20 years.
“If his fans want to come from Chorley and Bamber Bridge, we will do our best to ensure everyone can attend.”
The funeral will be held on Friday at Overdale Chapel on Chorley New Road, Bolton, at 12pm.
A wake will be held after the service at Rumworth Hall on Prescott Street.