Manager Phil Brown has paid tribute to “inspirational” Lancaster City legend Neil Marshall after the Giant Axe great’s death aged just 31.
The father-of-two retired at the end of last season to spend more time with his family, wife Kim and children Max and Daisy, attending matches this season even as his health deteriorated.
Brown has been in the dugout twice during Marshall’s career, first as assistant to Tony Hesketh before returning as manager last season.
The City boss said: “Every time he put the shirt on he gave you everything.
“He was a joy to work with and never wanted any special treatment.
“He was an inspirational character and we’re all devastated.
“We’re just thinking of the family. It’s come as a shock how quickly it’s happened.”
Marshall was told late last year he could have no more surgery on his groin, the cancer having first been detected in his lymph nodes.
After announcing his retirement, a testimonial was held for the central defender as a Lancaster City XI of former team-mates played a team made up of legends, including Alan Kennedy and Phil Neal, from his beloved Liverpool.
Marshall, who made his Blues debut on October 28, 2006, then got to chance to play in a game at the Anfield club’s Kirkby Academy training ground alongside Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler amongst others.
He also had a testimonial dinner attended by world champion boxer Anthony Crolla who was amongst the hundreds to pay tribute to him following his death – it was the least many thought he deserved after a distinguished career.
Brown said: “He was committed and dedicated.
“I think Tony Hesketh’s gone on record as saying he never had his number.
“You could depend on him and trust him.
“When I came back to the club 16 or 17 months ago he was well established as captain and nothing had changed.
“He was the same person. Very humble, really honest and a pleasure to manage and be around. He respected everyone, players and staff. He didn’t walk around like he’d been at the club 10 years and played 400 games. He was one of the lads.”
Marshall’s City career nearly finished on the ultimate high in March, as City lost out in the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy final to Chorley on penalties.
Brown said: “My lasting memory of him as a player will be the Lancashire Cup final.
“He was outstanding considering everything that was going on at the time. To play how he did was unbelievable but it’s testament to the man.”
Lancaster City chairman Stuart Houghton said: “He was always a great ambassador for the club.
“He was everything you want in a club captain. He could have gone to other clubs – he had the trial at Blackpool.
“Neil certainly could have left for more money but stuck with the club that was only round the corner from his house. His loyalty can’t be underestimated.”
The Dolly Blues travel to Colne in the NPL First Division North this Saturday.