HARROGATE’S sporting community has united in grief this week after the sudden death of Harrogate Town footballer Alex Emmett on Saturday, aged just 18.
Alex, known to his friends as Messi, was a rising star of the club’s U-19s squad, where he played alongside twin brother Jack.
He was also a keen cricketer, for Follifoot CC, and was a member of St John Fisher’s Table Tennis Club.
Town manager Simon Weaver said the club had lost one of its brightest young talents.
“It really is devastating news,” he said.
“Alex was a really promising player. I know, speaking to Mark Forster, the U-19s manager, in their cup final last year, he was the best player on the pitch.
“He was always the first name on the team sheet and was a really popular figure with his team-mates.
“The whole of the club is hurting right now but our immediate thoughts are with Jack, his younger sister Laura and his parents.”
Town are currently in talks with tomorrow’s Blue Square North hosts Gainsborough to organise a minute’s silence before kick-off.
Black armbands are planned to be worn as a mark of respect.
A silence will also happen at Town’s home fixture, next Saturday, against Stalybridge Celtic, with the club also set to remember the life of former captain Lee Dutton, who died two weeks ago.
After such an emotional week for everyone involved with the club, Weaver admits it will be hard to put Saturday’s tragedy out of their minds.
But he feels a fitting tribute to Alex will be to come home with three points.
“We’ve got to go there and do the town proud and do Alex proud,” added Weaver.
“On Tuesday night I sat the players down in the changing room and told them what had happened, as not everyone knew.
“There was just stunned silence, and you don’t often see that. Jack has obviously broken into the first team. The lads have been asking for his number to get in touch with him because they’ve really warmed towards him.
“We want him to know everyone at the club is there for him and his family, if they need us.”
Harrogate Railway junior chairman Paddy Hall also paid tribute to Alex: “Our deepest sympathy goes to all family, friends and teammates of Alex ‘Messi’ Emmett who died this weekend at the age of just 18,” he said.
“Alex played against Railway on many occasions and most recently as a Harrogate Town U-19s player. Alex was a friend to many Railway players and will be sadly missed by all who knew him in and out of football.
“Our thoughts are with his family at this extremely sad time.”
Alex started his cricketing career at Follifoot in 2006, playing for their U-13s side.
After a number of years working his way up their junior set-up, he grew into a swing bowler and lower-order batsman.
He was a popular member of the club’s third team, where he played alongside many of his school friends and brother Jack.
Follifoot third team captain Euan London remembered the happy times Alex had on and off the field.
“Alex was a great club man,” he said.
“When he missed out on being picked for the Chappell Cup final he turned around and said you have to pick the strongest side. That showed a very mature attitude.
“The mickey taking and the laughs the lads had together were a joy to behold. They will still have the laughs this season, but it will never be the same without Messi, their friend and team member.”
Ryan Smith, Steve Townsend and Alex Fox, team mates and close friends of Alex at Follifoot, added: “He was one of the good guys, genuine and always willing to put a lot of effort in. “Even when he had bad games, he refused to throw in the towel. We have lost a great team-mate, a great person, but an even greater friend.”
Max Mills, table tennis committee member and PE teacher at St John Fisher School, offered condolences to Alex’s family and friends: “I was impressed by his attitude and pleasant personality.
“He will be missed by table tennis players in the area,” he added.
Alex’s funeral will be held at Christ Church in Harrogate on Tuesday, February 21, at 2pm.
lTown’s trip to Guiseley on Tuesday night has been rearranged for Tuesday, March 20 as the Nethermoor side in FA Trophy action next week.