Football mourns Paul Mariner after his death aged 68

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Former Ipswich and England striker Paul Mariner has died at the age of 68 following a short battle with brain cancer.

Mariner scored 139 goals in 339 games for Ipswich in a golden era in which they won the FA Cup in 1978 and UEFA Cup in 1981.

His other clubs included Plymouth, Arsenal and Portsmouth while he also earned 35 England caps and scored 13 times for his country.

A statement from his family read: “We regretfully inform you that Paul passed away peacefully on July 9 surrounded by his family, after a brief battle with brain cancer.

“We would like to thank all the people who came to see him through his illness for their support and for the messages that were sent to him, they meant a great deal to him and us.

“A special thank you must go to the NHS and the unbelievable care he received when he most needed it and for that we, as a family, will forever be in your debt.

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“Paul lived a full life and was fortunate enough to represent a group of fantastic football clubs as well as his country, all of which meant the world to him.

“Anyone who knew Paul will attest to his fantastic sense of humour, his passion for life and for his work.

“He will be sorely missed by everyone who was ever around him and by those most close to him.”

Mariner, who played at the 1982 World Cup, also had spells playing and coaching in the United States and he managed Plymouth during the 2009-10 season. He later managed Toronto FC and worked as a media pundit.

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A tweet from Ipswich read: “We are devastated to hear the news of the passing of Town legend Paul Mariner at the age of 68. The thoughts of everyone at #itfc are with Paul’s family and friends at this sad time.”

A tweet from the England team’s account read: “We’re sad to have learned that Paul Mariner, who made 35 appearances for the #ThreeLions , has passed away at the age of 68. Mariner represented England between 1977 and 1985, scoring 13 goals. Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family, friends and former clubs.”

Former Ipswich team-mate John Wark said the news was “tough to take” as he paid a heartfelt tribute to his friend.

Wark told the Suffolk club’s website: “He was my best mate. As a footballer he was unbelievable. He came into the club and made a difference immediately.

“He could hold the ball up, scores goals. He’d take all the knocks for us. He made us a better team – and he helped me so much as well.

“As a person he was even better than he was as a player and that is saying something. He was so bubbly.

“He was the loud one in the dressing room, the one that got everyone going. The boys loved him, we all did.

“He called me his ‘brother’. That’s how close we were and we stayed in touch, even when he went to America. I can’t speak highly enough of him as a footballer but even more so as a person.”

Terry Butcher, a former team-mate with club and country, also paid his respects.

Butcher told Sky Sports News: “I remember him standing there, his chest was out, his chin was high, he was standing to attention. He was just perfect. That’s the example I wanted to follow.

“He was very much a combination of all the great strikers, he had everything and, as a man, as a person, he was great company. He was so caring and lovable and you couldn’t help but like him. We’re all devastated.”

Paul Mariner on his knees, having just scored for England against Hungary
Paul Mariner on his knees, having just scored for England against Hungary (PA)

Mariner began his career at Plymouth and scored 61 times in 155 appearances for the club before leaving for Ipswich in 1976.

A statement from the Pilgrims read: “The Argyle family is devastated to learn of the passing of legendary striker Paul Mariner.

“Everyone at the club sends our deepest condolences and best wishes to Paul’s family and friends at this tragic time.”

League Managers Association chairman Howard Wilkinson highlighted the passion Mariner had.

Soccer – Greg Dyke Press Conference – Wembley Stadium
Howard Wilkinson paid tribute to Mariner (PA)

Wilkinson said: “Anyone who earned compliments from Sir Bobby Robson deserves special recognition, and Paul’s goal tally tells you everything you need to know about his ability as a striker.

“Having faced his teams as a manager, I remember Paul as a tough opponent and a great team player. His enthusiasm and passion for the game was apparent throughout his performances.

“Paul’s contribution to football, both for club and country as a player and a coach, was enormous. This is a great loss to the game and I am saddened to hear of his passing.”

LMA chief executive Richard Bevan added: “Paul will be very much missed by his friends within the LMA and his colleagues from across football. Our thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends at such a sad time.”

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