Gary Ablett dies after cancer battle
Tributes were paid on Monday to former Liverpool and Everton defender Gary Ablett who has died from cancer at the age of 46. Ablett lost his 16-month battle against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on New Year's Day.
Former team-mates have spoken of their sadness at his death with Paul Walsh, who played alongside Ablett at Liverpool in the 1980s, describing the news as "absolutely tragic".
"I'm absolutely stunned at the news. He was a hell of a nice person. He was a top lad," he told Sky Sports News.
"He didn't do anything fancy but was a great pro who trained hard with a great attitude to everything he did.
"There was also a steely determination about Gary. You don't get in the Liverpool team and come through the ranks at Liverpool and play 100 times for them if you haven't got that little bit of steel."
Ablett, the only player to win the FA Cup with both Merseyside clubs, also went on to play for Birmingham, Wycombe, Blackpool and the American side Long Island Rough Riders before turning to coaching.
He spent some time with Everton's youth set-up before replacing Paco Herrera as the coach of Liverpool reserves, where he won both the Premier Reserve League North and also the national title in 2008.
Ablett left Liverpool a year later and was appointed Stockport manager at a difficult time for the club - they were in administration - and left after a season following a change of ownership.
He was not long into a coaching stint at Ipswich when he was diagnosed with the disease in the summer of 2010.
"He was good at everything he did as a player. He went into coaching and stamped his personality on to that and was doing a very good job, certainly at youth level," former Liverpool manager Roy Evans said.
"I remember he had bit of a difficult first spell at Stockport, but overall he's had a great career in football. He's a big loss to the sport. He made a big contribution to the game."
David Fairclough, who played for Liverpool between 1974 and 1983, added: "He was a lovely lad, he always conducted himself in the right way.
"He was great with people, always personable. What always came through with Gary was his attitude was just always very right."
Former Liverpool and Germany midfielder Dietmar Hamann, who became Stockport manager in 2011 a year after Ablett left the post, said: "It's devastating news. He's a very highly regarded and respected man on Merseyside and a true legend."
Michael Owen said on his Twitter account: "So sad to hear the news that Gary Ablett has passed away today aged 46. He played for some great clubs and had a career to be proud of. RIP."
In October Ablett spoke of the shock at being diagnosed with the disease.
"Jacqueline (his wife) took one look at me and took me straight to the doctors," he said in an interview with Everton's website to support Blue September - a campaign to raise awareness of forms of cancer specifically affecting men.
"The following day they whisked me to Ipswich hospital and the sister asked us if we knew why we were there
"We said 'for tests' but she told us they had found a really aggressive lymphoma and that without immediate treatment I'd be in serious trouble.
"From diagnosis to that first session of chemotherapy was less than three days, so it was a massive shock."
Former club Birmingham have announced a minute's silence will be observed before their npower Championship match at Peterborough today with another held at St Andrew's on Saturday prior to their FA Cup third round tie with Wolves.
Ipswich's players will wear black armbands for Monday's visit of Nottingham Forest and Ablett will be honoured with a minute's applause.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who gave Ablett his debut during his first spell as Reds boss, offered his condolences.
"It's a sad, sad day for his family and everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club," he told Liverpool's official website. "The most important thing just now is to pay our respects to Gary, his wife Jacqueline, the two boys and his wee girl.
"Obviously he had a long battle and I'm sure it was a lot of suffering and a lot of pain for him but the only thing you can say is at least he won't be suffering any longer.
"I gave Gary his debut and remember him scoring on his first start at Anfield against Nottingham Forest.
"He was a really good servant to the football club not only as a player, but also as reserve team coach. He served the club proudly and credibly. It's very sad for everybody."