Tributes and applause at games for 'beautiful' non-league football player who died aged 24

Ross Aikenhead
Ross Aikenhead, 24, passed away at his family home in Sale Credit: Wythenshawe Town FC

The father of a young non-league footballer who tragically died over the weekend has paid tribute to his 'beautiful boy with an infectious smile'.

Ross Aikenhead, 24, passed away at his family home in Sale, Greater Manchester, on Saturday 30 March.

Ross, who played for Winsford United in the North West Counties Football League First Division South, had been living with epilepsy for the last 10 years.

Ross Aikenhead

He was found unresponsive on Saturday morning and paramedics said he had suffered a seizure before he had died.

Tributes were paid to Ross at non-league football grounds at the weekend, including at former club Wythenshawe Town, where a minute's silence turned to applause before kick-off at their derby game against Wythenshawe.

John Aikenhead, who described himself as a 'proud father', said he would smile whenever he thinks of his talented son.

John said: "For people who didn’t know, Ross had epilepsy and this is what led to him being taken from us far too soon. The world will be a different place now for anyone who knew Ross.

"He was a beautiful boy with an infectious smile. I am determined not to live my life sad every day because he is not here. It is my mission to carry him in my heart and smile, not cry, when I think of him.

"Ross adored his football and anyone who knows me knows how much I loved to watch him play. He played for so many teams in his short life."

John added: "Ross was loved much more than words can say and he will be deeply missed by all but especially by me, his mum Sam, his sister Maisie and his brothers, Joel and Luke." It's not yet known if Ross died directly because of the seizure, or if he had suffocated as a result of it.

Ross' brother, Luke Aikenhead, said: "Ross was epileptic, he had his first seizure about 10 years ago. It's something he had been suffering with, but he took his medication for it.

"He used to have fits in his sleep, and on Friday night he's had a seizure in the night. My dad's gone to wake him up in the morning, and he's just not woke up."

Ross had been born at the same Sale home where he lived all his life, and Luke has plenty of joyful memories shared with his brother. Luke said: "We're all like mates - a big group of mates.

"People are always round our house for parties, barbecues. The amount of people that have got round us and supported us, and people that knew him for 24 years of age, is wild.

"He played football for lots of lower league clubs. He played golf and boxing as well, but football was probably his biggest love."

Tributes were paid to Ross at non-league football grounds over the weekend fixtures. Credit: MEN Media

Ross worked as a bathroom fitter and played his youth football for Ashton on Mersey, from around the ages of five to 16.

He joined Winsford United from Wythenshawe Town at the start of this season. Winsford's game at Cheadle Heath Nomads on Saturday was postponed following Ross' death, but the club played Cheshire rivals Barnton yesterday and a minute's silence was held for Ross before the match.

A Winsford United spokesperson said: "We would like to thank everyone for their kind messages at this tragic time, many clubs observed a minutes silence or applause at their games yesterday which is very much appreciated. Thank you."

Ross' family has been grateful for the support from grassroots football sides following his death.

John said: "I am so thankful for the lovely words from all the clubs he has played for: Hyde United, Wythenshawe Amateurs, Wythenshawe Town and Broadheath Central.

"I have never seen him so happy as he has been lately, playing at Winsford Utd. He was living his best life and was destined for better things. I will always be grateful for the way Winsford welcomed him and helped him flourish.

"I watched him grow stronger as a footballer, a leader and a man. They helped him find his confidence and his voice. I am overwhelmed by the amount of messages and tributes showing the love people had for my son."

Winsford United will be hosting a tribute to Ross before their home game against Ashville at the Barton Stadium on Thursday evening.

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