It hasn’t been an easy three years for those connected to Aston Villa.
On the pitch, players, fans and staff have had to deal with the heartache of relegation from the Premier League, but away from the field, they’ve had far worse tragedies to deal with.
Yesterday, Jlloyd Samuel, who played for Villa between 1998 and 2007, died in a car crash shortly after dropping his children off at school. He was just 37.
The dad-of-three was killed when his Range Rover was involved in a collision with a van in the village of High Legh, near Warrington, Cheshire.
It is the fifth major tragedy to rock the Midlands club since 2016.
On August 15 of that year, former Villa striker Dalian Atkinson, 48, a favourite among fans in the early 1990s, died after being tasered by police near his dad’s house in Telford, Shrops.
The incident was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), whose staff examined the level and type of force used by West Mercia police officers.
Subsequently, three officers were served with gross misconduct notices.
Ron Atkinson, Atkinson’s former manager at Sheffield Wednesday and Villa, described the incident as an "out-and-out tragedy", adding that he "had terrific ability".
In January 2017, Villa fans mourned the death of their former manager Graham Taylor, who steered the club back to the top flight in 1988/89.
The ex-England boss, who also led Villa to a runners-up place in the old First Division, returned for a second spell in charge in 2002/03. He died of a heart attack.
A few months later, in April 2017, there was yet more heartache.
Ugo Ehiogu, who played alongside Atkinson at Villa, died suddenly at the age of 44 after suffering a cardiac arrest while coaching at Tottenham.
The former England defender, who married wife Gemma, in 2005, had two children – son Obi Jackson and daughter Jodie.
Most recently, in January this year, Cyrille Regis, a teammate of both Atkinson and Ehiogu at Villa between 1991 and 1993, died of a heart attack.
The 59-year-old was a influential figure in the game, having blazed a trail for black footballers in the 1970s and 80s.
His death drew an unprecedented number of tributes.
Pulling on the famous claret and blue aside, each of the five tragic players had one thing in common – they were hugely popular in the Midlands and beyond.
In light of Samuel’s death, fans told of their shock at yet another Villa hero’s passing.
Later this month, Villa – managed by Steve Bruce, who has lost both of his parents in the past five months – face Fulham in the Championship play-off final.
A victory would secure them a place in the Premier League next season.
While it couldn’t ever repair the pain of losing five of their former stars, Villa fans would surely argue they’re due some good fortune.
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