Footballer dies during match
TRIBUTES have poured in for a young father-of-two who suddenly collapsed and died during a football match.Team-mates of Nicholas Roche, 30, who was captaining the Long Melford Working Men's Club side against Eastern Old Boys, tried in vain to revive him after he fell to the ground during a Sunday League game.
TRIBUTES have poured in for a young father-of-two who suddenly collapsed and died during a football match.
Team-mates of Nicholas Roche, 30, who was captaining the Long Melford Working Men's Club side against Eastern Old Boys, tried in vain to revive him after he fell to the ground during a Sunday League game.
Last night, the Suffolk man's family and friends said they were devastated by his death – which paramedics said may have been caused by a heart attack. His brother, Ciaran Roche, was playing in the same game on Sunday when the tragedy struck.
Nick's childhood friend Stuart Binfield, 31, a striker in the team, was involved in a corner at the other end of the pitch when Nick, who played left back, fell to the ground.
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He said: "He just collapsed in his own half. The ball was at the other end of the pitch. I don't think he was even running.
"Someone said to kick the ball out as there was a man down. We thought he was having a fit. I think he was gone there and then."
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Stuart said the greatest tragedy was that Nick, who worked as a chef for Fleetwood Caravans in Long Melford and was a former pupil at Sudbury Upper School, had left two children – Megan, aged three-and-a-half, and two-month-old Declan.
He added: "He was such a lovely, family-orientated, happy man. We more or less grew up together. It's hard to put into words how we are feeling. It was so unexpected. He was just a few months younger than me. He was fairly fit and hardly ever missed a game."
Nick lived with his wife and young children in Queensway, Acton, near Sudbury.
Team manager Danny Kemp, 33, speaking on behalf of Nick's wife Lisa, 26, brother, mother and stepfather, who live in Long Melford, said the family was very shocked.
He added that Nick, known to his friends as "Dotty" because of his red hair and freckles, was a dedicated captain who would speak his mind.
"He will be very sadly missed," he said.
When the incident happened the referee stopped play immediately and Nick's team-mates, goalkeeper Paul Atkinson and right back Paul Richardson, battled in vain to resuscitate him. It happened 35 minutes into the first half.
Paramedics rushed to the scene and tried to restart his heart as he lay on the Assington village hall pitch, but it was too late.
David Theobald, secretary for the Martin's Builders Sudbury Sunday League, said a minute's silence would be held before all games next Sunday in Nick's memory.
He added that Long Melford WMC had been told they could take a break from Sunday fixtures until the team felt able to play again.
He said: "You don't expect this in someone so young. The team was absolutely devastated and the league is terribly upset. The chairman of the league and fixtures secretary have offered their condolences on behalf of the league to the club and his family."
He added that Suffolk County Football Association had also paid its respects to Long Melford WMC.
Nick's funeral will be held at 11am on Friday, November 22 at St Gregory's Church, Sudbury, where he was married just over a year ago.
Sunday's match was abandoned as Nick's team was leading 1-0. The two teams are planning a charity replay to raise money for his family and there is also a collection in The Crown Inn, Long Melford. Two of Nick's team shirts – one which he was given as player of the year a few seasons ago and the shirt he was wearing when he died – will be mounted on the wall at the Working Men's Club.