Hibs captain Liam Craig has promised David Paul will “never be forgotten” after the popular 18-year-old’s sudden death left everyone at Easter Road in a state of shock.
Craig, a father of two, paid an emotional tribute to both Paul and 13-year-old Jamie Skinner, who was playing for his old side Tynecastle Boys’ Club when he collapsed and died only hours after the Hibs youngster was found dead in bed at his family home.
The double tragedy left Craig devastated, with the midfielder revealing he was unable to even think of Hibs’ Boxing Day match against Ross County in Dingwall. He instead used the press conference he was attending to preview that game to talk of the sorrow and disbelief which has engulfed both Capital clubs.
The midfielder, who had watched Paul and his Under-20 team-mates entertain Hibs’ senior pros with an X-Factor based Christmas show less than 48 hours before his death, said: “It’s just horrible, a sad, sad day for Edinburgh, Tynecastle, everyone. Horrible.
“When I found out I just sat in disbelief, being a parent myself as well. David was a popular guy. I only knew him for a few months, but reading what his team-mates were saying about him ... it was just far too soon.
“It’s tough, really tough, I’ve never had to deal with anything like it in football. My thoughts are with both families.”
While boss Terry Butcher revealed counselling will be made available for anyone who needs it, Craig insisted he and the club’s senior players will also be ready to help their younger team-mates in any way they can.
He said: “It’s important we are there for each other. You talk about the Hibernian family and this is when we really need to be a family and stick together. It’s important we are there, especially for the younger players.
“They’re off on their Christmas break, but it’s important we are there and on the other end of the phone whenever they need to talk because they were the ones closest to him.
“We are a close-knit squad in the first team and watching the young boys on Friday you saw how close-knit they were and it’s about helping each other through it.
“Everyone will deal with it differently. It’s important to give people space but, if they want to talk, we’re here to listen.”
Craig’s thoughts were also with the family of 13-year-old Skinner, the former Falkirk player saying: “Tynecastle was a club I played for at Under-13s and I spoke to my manager at that time on my way to training yesterday. I keep in touch with Raymond [Wales] my coach at the time and Dougie Dalgleish. I just can’t believe it has happened, ... two young boys.”
The Hibs captain accepted he and his team-mates will have to try to put the tragedy aside – for 90 minutes at least – as they concentrate on Ross County, but he admitted their thoughts won’t stray far from the two youngsters.
He said: “You feel a bit embarrassed actually sitting talking about football. Two families have lost their sons and to talk about football, it’s just horrible.
“The reality is that we have got a game of football to play. I’ve not even thought about that. It’s horrible to say, but that is the reality. We’ll be professional, do what we need to try to win the game and when it’s finished we’ll be there for each other again.”