The first footballer to score a competitive goal at the new Wembley Stadium has died suddenly, aged 27, the Football League said yesterday. Mitchell Cole had been forced to retire as a professional player in 2011 due to a heart condition which left him with an irregular thickness of the heart. Cole, who was married to the sister of England international Joe Cole, scored for Stevenage against Kidderminster at Wembley in the 2007 FA Trophy Final. He said last year he would be risking death if he were to play again.
In a recent interview he said: "A few players around the world die of this every year. The specialists told me that every day I have a 1 per cent chance of dropping dead, and sport quadruples that risk. When he gave me the numbers and showed me images of my heart, it hit me hard."
Despite retiring from the professional game last year, Cole did make a handful of non-league appearances, including for Bedfordshire team Arlesey Town.
However, according to Arlesey's director of football, Gary King, Cole gave up football for good after watching Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffer a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup tie with Tottenham last March. Cole, who began his career at West Ham United, is believed to have continued to play five-a-side football.