STROUD MP David Drew has led tributes to much-loved former footballer Nick Ackland who passed away this week after a short illness.
Known affectionately as Ackers, the former Forest Green, Shortwood United, Stonehouse and Kingswood midfielder died on Tuesday, aged just 51.
Mr Drew, who has known Nick for 40 years said: “I was a teacher at Maidenhill School, where Nick attended. I didn’t teach Nick, but I was involved with him with the football at the school, where he was a contemporary of David Smith, who went on to play in the Premier League and for England U21s.
“Nick was charming, gifted and a really capable footballer in his own right. He lived in Stonehouse all his life and I saw him very regularly – this makes it all more shocking and I’m deeply sad at what has happened and will be sending my condolences to his family.”
Shortwood United held a minute’s silence ahead of their game on Tuesday for a player who previously served them with distinction on and off the pitch.
Club spokesman Jim Cunneen said: “All at Shortwood are deeply saddened. Nick was a legend in local footballing circles and did so much to promote football and help players find their way in the game.
“He was associated with Shortwood for many years as a player then as assistant manager to Des Meredith with the reserves and then development manager in his own right.
“He always had a ready smile and was willing to chat and was a great man to have around the place and even if not involved in a game he could be found at the ground with his beloved dogs.
“The word tragedy is used far too often when dealing with football, but it is appropriate to use it on this occasion.”
After leaving Shortwood last season he joined his hometown club Stonehouse as assistant manger and even dusted off his boots for a couple of games for the reserves.
The County League outfit posted this tribute on Twitter.
“The club are immensely sad to learn of the passing of assistant manager Nick Ackland.
“Despite his short tenure at the club, Nick was a true gentleman and legend, who loved football, his family and his dogs. All thoughts are with Nick’s family at this time.”
Scores of former team-mates have spoken of their shock at his premature death, with Facebook flooded with messages for the popular midfield maestro, who kept himself in tip-top shape as a regular competitor at the Stroud Half Marathon and regular runs and walks over Doverow Hill with his beloved terriers.
Former Gloucester City midfielder Doug Foxwell, who played with Nick at Shortwood United during their treble-winning 1991/92 season, said: “So sorry to hear this very sad news. Nick was a smashing chap and a very good footballer, he will be missed by many. RIP mate.”
And ex-Portsmouth midfielder and Gloucester City boss Chris Burns, added to the warm words, he said: “Ackers was a great lad and decent footballer, one of the most genuine lads I met. RIP, truly gutted.”
Wayne Hams a former team-mate at Shortwood recalled how Nick helped him settle in Gloucestershire.
He said: “ When I moved to Stonehouse from London I never knew anybody and Nick and his two brothers became great friends. I saw Nick often in Stonehouse and we always talked football. RIP mate.”
David Bedwell, another former team-mate, said: “ Very sad news. Nick was a great bloke, and a great team-mate on the pitch too.”
Clive Noble, who played in goal for Shortwood, said: “ So sorry to hear this, I can’t believe it – he was so fit, and what a lovely bloke, always had time to speak to you, RIP mate.”
Dave Stanton expressed his shock, he said: “ Absolutely lost for words, just cannot believe it, my thoughts are with Marie and his family at this awful time.xx.”
Thomas Rutter, a former Gloucester City and Shortwood striker, said: “I’m in utter shock – what a professional Nick was both on and off the field of play. Very sad news and my thoughts go out to his family.”
Slimbridge boss Lee Driver-Dickerson, said: “ Very sad news. Such a fit guy and a good footballer, but most of all an amazing human being . My thoughts are with his family and close friends !! R.i.p ackers !! Xxx.”
Current Shortwood striker Jamie Walker said Nick was responsible for him falling in love with football again.
He said: “I remember when I first came to Shortwood Nick was the one who gave me confidence and got me back to enjoying football again, when I was starting to fall out of love of the game. Nick was an absolute legend and is a huge loss, thoughts are with your family at this difficult time.”
Funeral details are expected to be confirmed at a later date.
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