'An unbelievable footballer' - Paul Mariner's teammates pay tribute to Town legend

Terry Butcher, Paul Mariner, Eric Gates and Mick Mills

Terry Butcher, Paul Mariner, Eric Gates and Mick Mills - Credit: RICHARD SNASDELL

Ipswich Town legend Paul Mariner’s former teammates have paid tribute to a “wonderful character” who was the “life and soul of the party” following his death aged 68.

The Ipswich and England striker died on Friday after a short battle with brain cancer, his family said.

He's no mug: Paul Mariner enjoys a pre-kickoff mug of tea before his side take on Ipswich on Saturda

Mariner played for both Ipswich and England - Credit: Archant

Mick Mills said he feels there was no player better than Paul at Portman Road during the "terrific" Sir Bobby Robson era, which saw his squad lift the UEFA Cup in 1981. 

Paying tribute to his friend and colleague, he said: “It is very devastating news.

"Obviously, first of all, our thoughts are with his partner Val, his mother Peggy, and his three sons George, Joe and Dan. Our love goes to them at this very difficult time.

“We knew about Paul’s problems and his illness, it’s been a very slow thing so we knew that it was very close.

Mick Mills leads out the Ipswich Town team for the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against Colo

Mick Mills leads out the Ipswich Town team for the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against Cologne at Portman Road in April 1981. He is followed by Ipswich players Paul Cooper, Alan Brazil, Arnold Muhren, Eric Gates, Frans Thijssen, John Wark, Steve McCall, Russell Osman and Terry Butcher. Not in picture: Paul Mariner Photograph: EADT - Credit: Archant

“But it’s hit everybody so hard because he’s too young to have gone.

He added: “He was a massive, massive personality, he was a terrific player, everything about him was colossal.

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"There was no player better I don’t think than Paul at Portman Road during that terrific Bobby Robson era.

"He was terrific on the pitch, a great leader of the line, certainly one you would much prefer to have in your team than against you. All of his colleagues remember him most for his personality and his presence in the dressing room.

Dressing room scene: Town players (from left) Frans Thijssen, Arnold Muhren and Paul Mariner take in

Mick Mills said Mariner's colleagues remember him most for his personality and his presence in the dressing room - Credit: Archant


“Dressing rooms are notorious for being fun-a-minute, wise-cracking, that type of thing. But Paul was right at the very top of all the stuff that went on in the dressing group and everyone absolutely adored him.”

John Wark told Ipswich Town FC’s website that Paul was “his best mate” who was close enough to be his brother.

“I have seen Paul over recent weeks and it’s been hard and then when the news came through, it’s tough to take,” he said.

“Obviously my thoughts are with his family and what they are going through and it’s difficult to talk about it at the moment.

Ipswich Town's John Wark (left) and Paul Mariner kiss the trophy

Ipswich Town's John Wark (left) and Paul Mariner kiss the trophy - Credit: Archant

“He was my best mate. As a footballer he was unbelievable. He came into the club and made a difference immediately.

“He could hold the ball up, scores goals. He’d take all the knocks for us. He made us a better team - and he helped me so much as well.

Wark added: “As a person, he was even better than he was as a player and that is saying something. Bobby [Robson] put us together as room-mates and it just went boom from there.

“He was so bubbly. He was the loud one in the dressing-room, the one that got everyone going. The boys loved him, we all did.

“He called me his ‘brother’. That’s how close we were and we stayed in touch, even when he went to America. I can’t speak highly enough of him as a footballer but even more so as a person.”

Ipswich Town's UEFA Cup winning squad. Back row, left to right: Alan Brazil, Paul Mariner, Russell O

Ipswich Town's UEFA Cup winning squad. Back row, left to right: Alan Brazil, Paul Mariner, Russell Osman, Terry Butcher, Laurie Sivell, Paul Cooper, Frans Thijssen, Kevin Steggles, Allan Hunter, Arnold Muhren. Front row, left to right: Bobby Robson (manager), Eric Gates, John Wark, Mick Mills (captain), Kevin Beattie, Kevin O'Callaghan, Steve McCall and Bobby Ferguson (coach). - Credit: Archant - Credit: Archant

Terry Butcher, a former team-mate with club and country, also paid his respects.

Butcher told Sky Sports News: "I remember him standing there, his chest was out, his chin was high, he was standing to attention. He was just perfect. That's the example I wanted to follow.

"He was very much a combination of all the great strikers, he had everything and, as a man, as a person, he was great company. He was so caring and lovable and you couldn't help but like him. We're all devastated."

Former Ipswich centre-back Russell Osman, who played alongside Paul in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said he was “always full of energy and life”.

“He was a wonderful teammate, a great person, life and soul of the party.

“He was always full of energy and life. He was a wonderful character, and a very important part of the team that we had in the late 70s, early 80s.

Osman added: “He was just a great lad, loved his music, loved his rock and roll, his heavy rock music especially. He was just a wonderful, wonderful fella.”

Former Manchester United, England and Millwall winger Gordon Hill roomed with the Ipswich legend during their time playing for the national side.

He tweeted: “I got the sad news a couple of hours ago of the passing of my very good and close friend  Paul Mariner.

 “It is heartbreaking to me as we were close, and roomed together in the England team.

"Rest in peace PM you will always be with me and remembered fondly.”

Fellow England legend Peter Shilton recalled playing with him during the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

He tweeted: "I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Paul Mariner. I had the pleasure of playing with him in the England 82 World Cup in Spain.

"A great gentleman and terrific player, my condolences to his family at this sad time.”

League Managers Association chairman Howard Wilkinson highlighted the passion Mariner had.

Wilkinson said: "Anyone who earned compliments from Sir Bobby Robson deserves special recognition, and Paul's goal tally tells you everything you need to know about his ability as a striker.

"Having faced his teams as a manager, I remember Paul as a tough opponent and a great team player. His enthusiasm and passion for the game was apparent throughout his performances.

"Paul's contribution to football, both for club and country as a player and a coach, was enormous. This is a great loss to the game and I am saddened to hear of his passing."

LMA chief executive Richard Bevan added: "Paul will be very much missed by his friends within the LMA and his colleagues from across football. Our thoughts are with Paul's family and friends at such a sad time."

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