A ‘dream student’ from Lancashire who became a football coach in America has been brutally murdered in New York.
Mike Jones, 25, from Tarleton, near Preston, was stabbed to death at 4.26am local time on Sunday, according to the New York Police Department.
Officers answering an emergency call found Mr Jones near 25 West 14th Street with severe stab wounds to his neck and torso. His ear had also been severed.
The former Tarleton Academy pupil, who coached junior players with the New York Red Bulls, was pronounced dead on arrival at Bellevue Hospital, New York.
Mr Jones, who lived in West Harrison, in Westchester County, is believed to have been with his sister and a friend until midnight, when they parted ways.
A surveillance video shows Jones and a man walking together near Union Square, where they got into an argument and the suspect attacked him.
He has been described as a Hispanic man between the ages of 25 and 30, with a dark pony-tail.
The incident is not thought to have been a robbery as Mr Jones’ iPhone was still at the scene. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
A keen Liverpool fan, Mr Jones played for football side Tarleton Corinthians and had close links with Hesketh Bank AFC.
He later studied at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, before heading across the Atlantic five years ago and forging a career with the Major League Soccer side, now captained by former Arsenal star Thierry Henry.
Simon Bland, who was Mr Jones’ PE teacher at Tarleton Academy, described him as a “dream student”.
He said: “I’ve been teaching for 20 years and you maybe get somebody like Michael once every five years.
“He was your dream student. For somebody to arrive in school with so much natural ability was rare - you could just stand back in awe of him really.
“He was a very, very talented swimmer, he could perform all four strokes, even in year seven he could do the butterfly.
“Any skill he could master, he performed in football, basketball, any team you wanted he was there.
“He was a sprinter, he ran for us in athletics, but unlike some lads he wasn’t flash or anything like that, he was just really gifted. He was a quiet lad who just got on with it.
“He was really popular with the lads because they all wanted him on their team.”
David Nelson, Mr Jones’ former manager at Tarleton Corinthians, said the coach had been due to return home next month.
He said: “I’m in absolute shock. The devastation, it’s just so raw at the moment.
“He was a really fun loving guy, very, very outgoing.
“He moved to America five years ago and had been due to come home next month.”
New York Red Bulls said it wanted to send its “heartfelt condolences” to Mr Jones’ family, friends and loved ones.
A Red Bulls spokesman said: “He was a tremendous individual, a fantastic coach who loved soccer and a terrific friend for many of us.
“This is truly a sad day for our soccer community and we will do our utmost to help authorities in their investigation of this case.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s family at this time.”
Paul Sergeant, Hesketh Bank AFC chairman and general secretary, said everyone at the club would also like to pass on their condolences to Mr Jones’ close friends and family.
He said: “Although Michael did not play for the club he was a excellent footballer for Tarleton Corinthians Saturday and Sunday senior sides and was making a name for himself as an excellent youth team coach at New York Red Bulls.
“He was very close to current management and players in the senior section and this is a very sad time for the community.”
Nick Pearce, 28, who worked as a coach alongside Michael for the New York Red Bulls, said he was “shaken” by his friend’s tragic death.
Mr Pearce, from the West Midlands, said: “I worked with him for nine months on the New York Red Bulls training programme.
“He was a good friend. He was kind, he was a really nice character, he was just a lovely guy.
“Everybody that knew him has put comments on social media sites, paying their respects. It’s a tragedy.”
An Edge Hill University spokesman said Mr Jones was a “hardworking” student, popular with his peers and staff at the Department of Sport and Physical Activity.
He said: “Edge Hill University would like to express its shock and sadness at the news of the death of alumnus Michael Jones as a result of this horrific crime.
“He had a bright future ahead of him, having a forged a successful coaching career in the USA following his graduation.
“Deepest sympathies are extended to Michael’s family and friends, who are in our thoughts at this difficult time.”