The footballing community right across Sussex has joined together to pay tribute to tragic Connor Saunders.
Connor, 19, died after becoming the victim of an assult in Rottingdean on Saturday night. Just hours beforehand he was turning out for Peacehaven and Telscombe Football Club, where his death has left everyone devastated.
The club published the following statement on its new PTFC website on Sunday: “It was with incredible sadness we learned this morning that Connor Saunders, 19, had died following an attack yesterday evening.
“We have all lost a wonderful person and talented footballer. Connor has many friends because of his lovely nature and his loss is tragic to everyone connected to our club, his friends and family.
“The club is currently in a state of shock. Our condolences go to all the family and we would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult time. “RIP Connor we all loved you and you will never be forgotten.”
Meanwhile, players and football clubs from right across East and West Sussex took to social networks to express their shock and sadness at the tragic news. The reaction was overwhelming.
On Twitter, Burgess Hill Town FC (@BurgessHillFC) posted: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Connor Saunders RIP.”
Bognor Regis Town FC (@rocks1883) wrote: “Thoughts and prayers for (former Rocks player) Callum Saunders & family after the tragic death of his younger brother Connor last night. #ripconnorsaunders”
Littlehampton Town FC (@LittlehamptonFC) added: “@PT_FC shocking news – our thoughts are with all at Peacehaven and all Connor’s friends and especially his family at this horrendous time.”
Lewes Ladies and England U23 star Naomi Cole wrote: “Thoughts are with family and friends of Connor Saunders. Tragic loss of life at only 19! Unbelievable how people can kill someone else #rip”
And Newhaven FC and former Brighton & Hove Albion star Kerry Mayo (@kerrymayo3) wrote: “Terribly sad news. Thought with family and friends through this awfully painful time.”
Messages of condolences weren’t just left on Twitter. On the football website Nomad Online, which has a thread devoted purely to the Sussex County Football League, one Ian Saunders wrote: “Didn’t know the kid but please accept our condolences from all at Midhurst and Easebourne.”
Tony H posted: “Tragic news, the thoughts and prayers of everyone at Westfield FC go out to Connor’s family, friends and team mates at this difficult time.”
Another message, from a poster entitled winners, representing Connor’s former club, Crawley Down, said: “I cannot believe I have just read this. We at Crawley Down are devastated what a great young player he was and such a likeable friend and colleague.
“Our condolences to all Connor’s family and friends.
“R.I.P. All at Crawley Down Football Club.”
And a Skip said: “Prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and friends from all at Storrington FC, tragic loss of a lovely talented kid.”
Bob M (@BobMunnery) of Ringmer FC posted: “God. I want to say something. Anything, but words fail me. A young kid’s life gone forever. From us all at Ringmer. RIP son.”
One message left by a Shiner was particularly poignant, as the poster was writing on behalf of Worthing United, the team Peacehaven had played just the day before.
The promising young Connor had come off the bench to play what tragically was to become his last ever appearance on a football pitch.
The message read: “What is the world coming to?
“We only played Peacehaven yesterday and Connor came on during the 2nd half and like millions of teenagers, enjoyed his game of football and went out for a night with his mates... and it ends like this.
“It always takes a tragedy to put things in perspective.
“To all at Peacehaven and Connor’s family, my heart goes out to you, it really does.
“Our deepest sympathy from everyone at Worthing United.”
See this Friday’s Sussex Express for many, many more tributes paid to a very popular young man, from the world of football and beyond.