Family and friends have paid tribute after a 15-year-old boy collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack mid-way through a football match.
Tragic Ben Walker, 15, fell on the pitch in front of horrified teammates and onlookers as his side Thrapston Town Juniors FC were playing on Friday.
The sports-mad teen, who was also an avid cricketer, was rushed to hospital but sadly passed away later that day.
Flowers and football shirts have been left outside the club’s home ground, Chancery Lane, in tribute to the youngster.
Mourners also left messages written on the club’s home shirts as well as cricket bats and scarves, which were placed among the tributes.
Among them was an Aston Villa away shirt signed by his heartbroken parents, which said: “Benjamin Stephen Walker, 2002-2017.
“A great brother, loving son and friend. Gone but never forgotten. Holte Enders in the Sky. All our love always, Mom, Dad, Sam and Barney.”
One message from his auntie added: “Ben, a truly wonderful and beloved son, brother, nephew, cousin an friend.
“You brought us all so much happiness and you will forever hold a place in our hearts, We love you & will miss you every single day!
“Sleep well precious boy, lots of love, Aunty Caroline, Gavin, Josh & Ethan.”
His uncle said in another note: “Ben, a handsome and charming young man, you will leave a void in our lives that could never be filled.
“We will always remember you and love you forever. Uncle Simon, Nadine, James, Zach, Charie and Keira xxx”.
His grandmother also left a note, saying : “Ben, you are an amazing grandson, thank you for all that you did for me, I hope you’re with your grandad.
“Rest in peace sweetheart, lots of love Nanny Sheila xxxxx”
A message on a cricket bat laid on top of a Villa scarf added: “RIP Benji. It was an honour to play with you.”
Another message, scrawled on a yellow Thrapton football shirt, read: “Missing you loads mate.
“U were one of my best mates and one of the most talented football/cricket players I know.
“Fly high buddy. Thinking of you always. Harry P.”
Ben attended Prince William School in Oundle. A statement from them said: “It was with great sadness that we were informed about the sudden death of one of our students on Friday evening.
“Ben, known as Benji to many, was a fantastic, popular, polite and hard working student who loved to get the most out of school.
“A sporting all-rounder, Ben was a keen cricketer as well as a talented and reliable member of the Under 15’s school football team.
“Ben’s support and friendship for others both on and off the field of play will be truly missed by all who knew and loved him.
“Prince William School will be open on Tuesday, and we will be offering support and counselling for students and staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult and sad time.”
A statement on Thrapston Town FC’s website said: “It is with great sadness we learnt that young Ben Walker passed away Friday night whilst doing the thing he loved, playing football for the U15s in a league game.
“It is with a heavy heart we send our condolences to Nicola, Andy and Sam on the very very sad news. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.
“Also we send our condolences to Rusty, Ben’s team mates and all at Thrapston Town Juniors Football Club.”
The Aston Villa fan’s sudden collapse during the match against Ise Lodge U15 Hawks is believed to have been caused by a cardiac arrest.
Family friend Aaron Clipston tweeted: “On the 28th of April Benjamin Walker had a cardiac arrest whilst playing the game he loved and sadly lost his life.
“He was a long loyal fan of Aston Vlla, where he loved watching his team play on a beautiful stage at Villa Park!
“He was a real gentleman and a pleasure to be around.
“He had such a bright future ahead of him and was also looking forward to becoming a season ticket holder watching his team play next year.”
Thrapston Cricket Club, where Ben was a wicket keeper and batsman, said in a statement: “During a Thrapston Town FC U15 game at Chancery Lane on Friday 28th April, one of the Thrapston players, Ben Walker collapsed.
“He was taken to hospital where he sadly passed away.
“As well as a talented footballer, he also represented Thrapston Cricket Club as a promising wicket keeper & batsman.
“Thoughts of everyone linked to Thrapston Town football & cricket club are with the Walker family at this sad time.
“All of the home cricket fixtures due to be played this weekend were postponed and a minutes silence was held at all Weetabix Youth League games as a mark of respect.
“Flowers and football shirts have been left in memory of Ben in the club grounds, which remain open for anyone to visit & pay their respects.”
Andrew Thomas, who coaches the cricket club, said: “Ben was a proper sportsman.
“He was a truly amazing boy, always smiling.
“He loved sports all his life. I know he played cricket and football, but there could easily have been other sports that he played.
“You could see his commitment and love of the game in training.
“Every now and then he would play for the senior side, which is a sign of his talent.
“Cricket and football were his main sports, and he seemed to be equally adept at both of them - in the mould of a young Phil or Gary Neville.
“His popularity can be seen just from the scale of the tributes at the cricket and football grounds.
“He will be sorely missed by a lot of people.”
Other youth football and cricket teams have expressed their shock and sadness at his death.
Corby Kingswood Juniors FC said in a statement: “Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family, friends and teammates of Ben Walker, who sadly passed away while playing football for Thrapston Town U15s last night.
“Our thoughts also go out to those who were at the game last night including the referee, crowd and players.
“All Corby Kingswood teams and all teams playing in the Weetabix Youth League will be holding a minutes silence before their games this weekend as a mark of respect and in memory of Ben.”
A statement from Wellingborough Old Grammarians Cricket Club, said: “On behalf of Old Grammarians Cricket club we express our deep sadness at the sudden death of Ben Walker, aged 15, during a game of football for Thrapston Town Football Club Juniors.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ben’s family and friends at this extremely sad time.”
A statement from Oundle Town Football Club added: “Oundle Town Football Club express their deep sadness and shock at the sudden death of Ben Walker, aged 15, from Thrapston Town Juniors during their game last night.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ben’s family and friends at this time.
“We will be observing a minute’s silence before games this weekend as a mark of respect.”
Thrapston Town Juniors FC manager Marc Hudson, 41, coached Ben from when he joined the team at the age of just four.
Yesterday (Monday) Marc, who works as a boat builder, described the teenager as the “perfect child”.
Marc said: “It was harrowing, what happened.
“It was the second half of the game when he collapsed.
“Up until that point it had just been a normal match, we were playing relatively well.
“And then from nowhere Ben just hit the floor.
“There was no-one anywhere near him at the time. One moment he was stood up, the next he was lying flat on the ground.
“Then your instincts just kick in.
“All you could hear at that point were the screams.
“Everyone just rushed around him. Within seconds the first responder was there, and we have a defibrillator on site too.
“The paramedics got there very quickly, and everyone involved could not have done any more.
“But it was clear from the start that it was a very concerning situation indeed.
“Ben’s mum, Nicola, had just gone home, but his dad was stood there watching.
“It’s horrible to think of what he must have seen, and what must have gone through his head.
“When he was taken away in the ambulance, we all feared the worst. Then, a few hours later, we got the call to confirm the news.
“It was shocking. No-one could have seen it coming at all.
“The next morning I wanted to bring everyone together to the ground, so that we could all mourn and reflect together.
“Within two hours about 200 people had come to pay tribute to him.
“People just found comfort in being there, in the ground, at that time.
“Ben was there right from the start, from when I first joined the club.
“I’ve had the privilege of seeing him grow from being in nappies to becoming the most wonderful young boy. He was very special.
“You couldn’t wish to come across a more genuine, charming young man, and I don’t say that lightly.
“He couldn’t do enough for you.
“He was funny, he was charming, he was kind. He was everything you’d want in a young man, and it’s clear that he’s been brought up incredibly well.
“Ben had this way of always making people smile, even during the tensest moments.
“The best thing that I can say about Ben football-wise is that he didn’t have a position.
“I could put him anywhere, and he would always give 110 per cent..
“He’s had stints in goal, out on the wings, at centre back, up front.
“If you stuck him out on a blade of grass, he would just run. He was obsessed with the ball and determined to win, whatever it took.
“On top of it all, he was balancing football with cricket.
“They’re two very different sports, but he was a star at both of them.
“I think he got to district level for cricket, and he was a mighty talented wicketkeeper.
“He was even starting to coach some of the younger ones some football, and they really warming to him.
“Him and a couple of the other lads were registering to go on a refereeing course too, and I think it’s something he would have been really good at.
“You never know with young sport stars these days, because it’s so competitive.
“But I have the feeling that, whatever he went on to do, he would have been very successful, because he had the right attitude right from the start.
“The scale of the tributes that have come in just tells you all you need to know.
“There are hundreds here, and the fundraising page is already taking off.
“The number of people wanting to pay their respects should really be surprising, but it’s not.
“He was just a special kid.”