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Club chairman’s tribute to talented footballer

By Will Clark

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Stefan Sutherland.
Stefan Sutherland.

THE chairman of a local football club has spoken of the team’s heartbreak following the death of a former player.

Lybster Phoenix’s Donald Henderson described Stefan Sutherland as one of the most competitive players he has ever known.

Players and committee members from the side were among the 40-strong group involved in the search for the 25-year-old.

Stefan’s body was found on the shoreline not far from his family home at The Moorings, Occumster, on Tuesday by a member of the public after he had been missing for 11 days.

Mr Henderson, who runs D & S Henderson village shop in Lybster, said the club was still coming to terms with the loss of Stefan, who was set to rejoin the team next season.

“Some of the players took time off their work to be part of the search, which shows you how popular he was,” he said. “Everybody in the village is still shocked about his death as all of the time he seemed to be a happy, chirpy sort of person.”

Playing football for Lybster was a big part of Stefan’s life. Having joined the club at 16 years old he played for them up until the beginning of this season’s Caithness County League when he joined Watten FC.

Lybster Phoenix were set to re-sign the talented midfielder after gaining promotion to the first division and Mr Henderson said he was to play a big part in their campaign next season.

“He was always part of the first team until he joined Watten last season when he became without a doubt their best player,” he said. “He was part of the Lybster team that won the Steven Cup, all of the lads got on well with him on and off the park where he enjoyed having a good time.

“I was very close with Stefan and after matches he would always ring me asking about what I thought of the game and how I thought he played.

“He never liked being told somebody played better than him but he always took it as banter.

“He was very quick on the ball and just wanted to play the best he could.

“Every night he was in my shop getting bits and pieces and we used to chat and joke but he always wanted to talk about football.”

Stefan went missing on September 6 when he was last spotted entering a house in Shelligoe Road in Lybster.

Extensive air and ground searches took place in Lybster and the surrounding area when helicopter and dog search teams were deployed.

Coastguard teams from Duncansby, Scrabster and Wick along with members of the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team were also involved in the search.

Stefan played for Helmsdale United in the Sutherland county league for three years and was due to win the supporters’ player of the year award.

Lybster Phoenix are in the early stages of discussing holding a memorial match with one of Stefan’s other clubs or holding a round-robin tournament with both Helmsdale United and Watten.

Police investigations were yesterday continuing into the circumstances of the death.

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