herald

Monday 26 September 2016

'He was a super player and a super friend' - legend McGrath's tribute to tasered footballer Atkinson

Dalian Atkinson died after being tasered by police. Photo: Reuters
Dalian Atkinson died after being tasered by police. Photo: Reuters

Irish legend Paul McGrath has led the tributes flooding in from the world of football following the death of Dalian Atkinson.

The former Aston Villa striker died early yesterday from cardiac arrest after being tasered by police in England.

The 48-year-old, a top- flight striker in the 1990s, is believed to have died around 90 minutes after he was tasered in Telford, Shropshire in the West Midlands, at around 1.30am.

"There's nothing I can say at the moment. Dalian was a good friend," said an emotional McGrath.

The retired Irish international told the Herald he "couldn't find the words" to sum up his former Aston Villa team-mate.

Sadness

"Don't feel too good at the moment, Dalian Atkinson was a huge part of the Villa family I played with. A lovely kid and friend," he wrote on Twitter when news first broke of Atkinson's death.

McGrath played with the former striker during his four years at the Birmingham club.

Expressing his sadness further, McGrath asked people to remember Atkinson as more than a footballer.

"He was a super man, a super player and a super friend," he said.

Atkinson made 85 appearances in four seasons with Aston Villa before going on to play less successfully for other teams including Turkish side Fenerbahce and Manchester City.

Former Aston Villa manager Ron Atkinson was among those who paid tribute to him, saying he "always had a smile on his face" when he played.

Atkinson played under 'Big Ron' at both Sheffield Wednesday and Villa.

"He did very well for me. I signed him at Sheffield Wednesday and when I joined Villa he was one of the first players I wanted to bring in. It's tragic," he said.

Villa supporters were yesterday planning on staging a "mass umbrella tribute", a reference to Atkinson celebrating with a brolly after scoring against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in 1992.

Former Sheffield Wednesday team-mate David Hirst, who played with Atkinson in 1989, said news of his death had come as a "massive blow".

"I saw the news and was thinking they had surely got it wrong. That should not happen," he said.

Cracker

"Whatever has happened, I can't comment on that, but I do know he was a great lad and a great character to have around the place."

Hirst said Atkinson would always be remembered for "the cracker he scored for Villa against Wimbledon in 1992".

The circumstances surrounding the former footballer's death are still being investigated, but according to reports he was 'shot' three or four times with a police taser as he lay on the ground outside his father's house.

Officers were called to the property in the early hours after complaints that a "very agitated" Atkinson was banging on the door.

England's police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said it would be investigating the incident.

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