Tributes paid to tragic footballer

A FATHER has paid tribute to his footballer son who collapsed and died aged just 33.The sudden death of top amateur player Aaron Gardiner has devastated his family and friends and stunned the region's football scene.

A FATHER has paid tribute to his footballer son who collapsed and died aged just 33.

The sudden death of top amateur player Aaron Gardiner has devastated his family and friends and stunned the region's football scene.

The father-of-three had just got out of the shower after finishing a pre-season training run when he fell to floor of his home in Blythe Close, Ipswich, on Wednesday evening.

His distraught fiancée, Jo, called 999 and desperately tried to revive the former Ipswich Town and AFC Sudbury midfielder but nothing could be done to save him.


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The exact cause of his death is not yet known, but the results of a post-mortem examination are expected to be announced today.

Mr Gardiner's devastated father, Rob, from Sudbury, said: "I don't think we will ever be able to get over this – no words can describe how much he will be missed.

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"He was a happy-go-lucky person, always full of life. He was also a brilliant son who was always there for me when I had problems."

Mr Gardiner, who got engaged two weeks ago, had three young daughters from a previous relationship, Georgina, Charleighand Genna.

His father added: "Aaron was a brilliant father, he absolutely idolised his three girls.

"He loved his football, but he really enjoyed his family life, that was the most important thing to him."

"The hardest thing in all of this has been breaking the news to the girls, it was just heartbreaking.

"We still don't really know what happened, all we know is Jo found him but she couldn't save him. She is just numb at the moment, so cut up. Aaron was just a lovely person."

Mr Gardiner, who grew up in Sudbury, had just signed for Clacton Town, ending a long and successful spell at Ridgeons League champions AFC Sudbury.

He moved to Ipswich two years ago for work reasons and set up home with Jo.

Mr Gardiner had excelled as a young footballer and signed forms with Ipswich Town straight after leaving Sudbury Upper School.

After being released by Ipswich, he played for both Sudbury Town and Sudbury Wanderers.

When the two clubs merged to form AFC Sudbury in 1999, the player became a firm favourite with fans, management and team-mates.

He made a total of 215 appearances for the Sudbury club, scoring 12 goals.

Mr Gardiner described running out at West Ham's Upton Park for the 2003 FA Vase Final against Brigg Town, which Sudbury lost, as one of his proudest moments.

AFC Sudbury official Peter Scott said Mr Gardiner's contribution to the Sudbury soccer scene had been vast.

"He has been very much a loyal servant to Sudbury football and it is tragic somebody this fit and keen should lose their life in this fashion," he said,

During his distinguished football career, the midfielder also enjoyed spells at Diss Town, Cornard United, Braintree Town and Halstead Town, making him one of the most recognisable faces on the region's football circuit.

He left AFC Sudbury at the end of last season and recently signed for Clacton Town.

The seaside club's manager Alan Dilloway said: "I have known Aaron for nearly 15 years through the local football scene. He had been training for us and had just signed.

"He was a superb player and a real gentlemen. He was a real 'Jack The Lad' character and he is a great loss to the region's football scene."

Mr Gardiner also leaves a 29-year-old sister Mychaela, a teacher in Ipswich. His mother, Gillian, died in 1988 when he was still a teenager.

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