THE world of football last night paid tribute to Gary Ablett – the only player to win the FA Cup with Liverpool and Everton – after his death from cancer.
The former defender, and most recently manager of Stockport County, had suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, for more than 16 months.
Last night, friends spoke about his great career in football and their profound sadness following his death, aged 46, on New Year’s Day.
Former Everton manager Howard Kendall, who in 1992 signed the footballer for the Goodison Park club in a £750,000 deal, said: “We knew Gary had been ill for quite a while.
“He fought it for a long time. That is the type of person he was. He was a super fella. It is a sad day. I’m stunned by it all. He was just 46.”
Recalling him as a player, he added: “He was a tremendous worker and a good defender. I took him to Sheffield United as well.
“He was a consistent player. He’s had a great career in football.”
Gary’s former Anfield team-mate, Jan Molby, said: “It’s very sad news. I last saw Gary at Goodison Park last May when he played in a charity match between Liverpool Legends and Everton Legends.
“I’ll remember Gary as a really good footballer. He was a very good reader of the game, a good passer and always used the ball well.
“He did everything he could to the best of his ability. He was very composed and had a sweet left foot. Off the field, he was a quiet guy, he was a family man. He loved the fact that he had made it as a footballer, as that was all he had ever wanted to do.”
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, who handed him his debut against Charlton Athletic, in December, 1986, said: “It’s a sad, sad day for his family and everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club.
“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.”
The League Managers Association, which broke the news yesterday, said:“Respected throughout the game by players, coaches and managers alike, Gary will be sadly missed.
“The LMA’s thoughts and condolences are with Gary’s wife, Jacqueline, and children.”
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 always very, very right.”
Former Liverpool boss Roy Evans said: “He was good at everything he did as a player. He went into coaching and stamped his personality onto that and was doing a very good job, certainly at youth level.”
Pat Nevin, former Everton winger, said: “I’m shocked and saddened. Gary was a lovely, lovely guy who was liked by everyone.”
Everton manager David Moyes added: “He was a regular visitor here to Finch Farm over the last six months, and he was a lovely man, well liked by everyone.”