GRIEVING friends of a footballer who died during training are raising money to create a memorial fund in his memory.

Paul Thompson was training with the Witney Royals Football Club in July when the tragic incident took place.

Now his friends and family hope the cash will provide first aid training for sport clubs and encourage each club to fund its own heart defibrillator.

Father of a four-year-old daughter and three step-children, Mr Thompson of Saxel Close, Aston, collapsed in Burwell Meadow, Witney, on July 17.

Despite attempts by team mates and paramedics to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead by a doctor on the field 30 minutes later.

An inquest into his death, held last month, heard the plumbing and heating engineer had visited his GP in February complaining of chest pains and had been diagnosed with two heart valve abnormalities.

But nothing was detected to suggest he should not lead a normal life.

Coroner Darren Salter recorded a verdict of natural causes, after the court heard a sudden death stemming from the abnormalities was extremely rare.

Gary Hewer, 36, and from Kidlington, was one of Mr Thompson’s best friends, and is one of several people who have joined Mr Thompson’s widow, Nikki Rouse-Thompson, 40, in fundraising in his name.

He said: “I’ve known Paul since I was 16. We went to college together and for the last 12 years we have worked together for his dad’s plumbing firm (Chipping Norton-based firm Thompson Heating and Plumbing Ltd.) “He was a great bloke – shy, but full of laughter and a fantastic dad, daughter Lilli doted on him.

“I still cannot get used to not seeing him every day. But I am determined to be there for Nikki and Lilli, and as Lilli gets older I will tell her what a great person her dad was.”

Mr Hewer, Richard Wickson from Witney, and Mr Hewer’s cousin Andrew Sloper from Bristol, tackled a 75-mile cycle ride earlier this month starting at The Green in Witney and finishing at Centre Parcs, near Warminster, one of Mr Thompson’s favourite holiday locations.

Mr Hewer said: “We hope to raise over £1,000 through our cycle sponsorship and this money will go forward to a memorial fund in Paul’s name called Legacy for a Legend, which will help fund defibrillators and first aid training at sports clubs and also help young people get involved in music.”

Mr Thompson also played bass guitar in two bands, Fused and Molotov Sexbomb.

Mrs Rouse-Thompson, 40, said: “It is comforting to think that Paul’s friends are doing this for him, it reflects what a wonderful person he was.”

To donate to projects in Paul Thompson’s name, including Pedal4Paul visit website: