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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Everton and England's Labone dies aged 66

Tributes were paid today to former Everton and England defender Brian Labone.

The 66-year-old, who won 26 England caps, was found collapsed in the street near his home in Maghull, Merseyside, at 11.25pm yesterday.

He was understood to have been walking home after a night out.

A passer-by called for an ambulance and paramedics tried to revive the former Toffees skipper but he was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

Labone made 534 league appearances for Everton in a 13-year career.

Everton director of communications Ian Ross said: 'Everyone at the club is devastated.

'In the pantheon of Everton greats, Brian Labone is right up there with the very best.

'He was one of the club's favourite sons and a hugely respected figure.

'He was regarded as a `professional's professional' before that term was ever used.

'But not only was he a great footballer, he was also a lovely bloke. I've never met anyone who met Brian who didn't like him.

'He still worked at the club as an ambassador on match days, showing guests around the stadium.

'He loved to do that because it meant he was still dealing with Evertonians.

'He was passionate about the football club and a great Merseysider.'

Labone was due to appear in England's 1966 World Club squad but pulled out as he was getting married.

He later played a key role in the England World Cup squad of 1970.

Labone, who was booked only twice and scored two goals in his career, retired at the end of the 1970-71 season due to an Achilles injury.

He won two league championships and an FA Cup winner's medal. Kevin Ratcliffe, captain of Everton from 1983 to 1991, added his own tribute.

'He was a great captain, a great player, one of those players I'd have liked to have played alongside,' Ratcliffe told Sky Sports News.

'He was a good spokesman for the club. He `was' Everton Football Club.'

As a player, Ratcliffe described Labone as 'a fair centre-half' and added: 'He'll be missed by the club because he did represent the club. Everyone loved him around Liverpool. He will be sadly missed I'm sure.'

Former Everton player and manager Howard Kendall, who was Labone's team-mate for seven years at Goodison Park, told BBC Radio Five Live: 'He was a great player and a great leader.

'He didn't shout his way through the team, he led by example and his performances on the pitch were tremendous.

'He was an outstanding player and a gentleman. He just performed well.

'It's a tragic loss.'

Everton manager David Moyes revealed his appreciation for the backing Labone had given him since he succeeded Walter Smith as manager.

'He was a real gentleman and he always had a good word of support for myself and the team whenever I was in his company,' Moyes told www.evertonfc.com.

'I was shocked to hear that Brian has passed away and my sympathies go out to all his family and friends.'