TRIBUTES have poured in for a former Hearts footballer who has been found dead near his Musselburgh home.
Steven Slater, 25, had fulfilled a boyhood dream when as a promising young player he signed a contract with the Gorgie club at the age of 16 and was catapulted into the world of professional football.
He was with the club for three years, but left in 2008 without making a senior appearance.
His body was discovered close to the town’s railway station last Friday. There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.
Scott Robertson, former football coach at Musselburgh Grammar School and president of Musselburgh Windsor, said the town was devastated.
He said: “I ran the football teams at the Grammar for around 20 years and Steven is definitely one of the youngsters who stood out. He was a lovely footballer and was very popular with the rest of his team mates.
“He always liked a laugh, but he always put the effort in and didn’t mind the hard work. That, of course, obviously paid off when he signed a contract with Hearts. His family were so proud of him, as were we who helped bring him along.
“He was a smashing player, who lived and breathed football. He will be sadly missed.”
A statement from his former boys’ club, Tynecastle FC, said: “It is with great sadness that we must report the death of former player, Steven Slater from Musselburgh.
“Steven played for Tynecastle FC between the ages of 12 and 16 before joining Hearts as a full-time professional. He left after three years and went to the USA for a three-year scholarship, but returned from Los Angeles one year later.
“Life lately had become very tough for Steven and the nature of his death on Friday evening will remain private, but we can say that his life of 25 years has ended too early and under very tragic circumstances.
“Condolences from all at Tynecastle to the Slater family and his friends.”
Hearts fans also took to social media sites and the club’s internet forum, Jambos Kickback, to pay tributes to Steven.
One poster, Theo 1874, said: “He was in my year at school. Great lad and a very talented footballer. Very sad news to hear.”
Another said: “RIP Steven, such a waste of a young life.”
Rodger Whittaker said on the Jambos Kickback site: “I’m lucky enough and blessed to have been able to call Slatez a close friend. He had a hard time this last wee while but still a nicer, caring, genuine guy you couldn’t hope to meet.
“He was a guy I loved spending time with and he’ll be sorely, sorely missed. Just wish he knew how much.
“He was a proper Hearts man and proud to have pulled on the jersey.”
Lambo 69 added: “He was a great lad. The whole of Musselburgh is in mourning.”
Floral and football tributes have been left near the station. A pair of football boots carried the message: “To My Big Bro, My Hero, Be Thinking of You Always. Your Brother Mikey.”
Blairdin posted on Jambo Kickback: “I took a few minutes on the way into work this morning to look at the tributes that have been left for Steven near Musselburgh station.
“Very warm and moving, it is obvious that this kid has left a huge hole in a helluva lot of lives.
“I hope you’re at peace now.”
Steven is survived by his father Andrew and younger brother Michael.
His mother Margaret died three years ago after a battle with cancer.
The funeral arrangements for Steven are yet to be announced.