An ex-footballer, whose body has been found four days after he went missing, was a “gentle giant” and a “goal machine”, his teammates have said.
James Dean, who played for a number of clubs including Stalybridge Celtic, Chorley and FC Halifax Town, was last seen in Oswaldtwistle on Wednesday.
Lancashire Police said his death was “not being treated as suspicious”.
Ex-Blackburn Rovers star Matt Jansen, who played with the 35-year-old at Chorley, said he was “devastated”.
Paying tribute on Twitter, former Halifax captain Danny Lowe said he had been a “big gentle giant” and a “goal machine”, while former strike partner Jansen added that he had been “such a great guy”.
I’m absolutely devastated to hear about my former team mate,friend Deano. Goal machine and nightmare on the pitch but a big gentle giant off it. Big heart big smile and left a positive impression on everyone, you will be missed but never forgotten. Rest easy brother #Deano 💙😢 pic.twitter.com/Qx1zX4I9Xk
— Danny lowe (@Dannylowe85) May 9, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
A police spokesman said the retired footballer was last seen in the Orchard Drive area of Oswaldtwistle at about midnight on 5 May.
He said his body was found in the Moscow Mill Street area of the town at about 14:25 BST on Sunday, adding that the death was “not being treated as suspicious and a post-mortem examination will take place in due course”.
In a statement, his family said they were “utterly heartbroken” and “still hoping he will walk back through the door and give us one of his smiles”.
“James was a loving father to his boys, a son, grandson, nephew and a brother and he will be desperately missed by so many,” they said.
“He was such a genuine and gentle person who would go out of his way to help anyone who needed it.”
His former manager at Halifax and Harrogate, Neil Aspin, said the “terrible news” felt “as if I had lost part of my family”, adding: “To be honest I really felt for the lad.”
The striker was “very popular among supporters and teammates,” he said.
Dean played for a host of non-league clubs, mostly in north-west England, across his 16-year career.
He scored 60 goals in 130 appearances for Chorley, helping them gain promotion to National League North in 2014.
He was one of Halifax’s most prolific goalscorers with 69 goals in 119 appearances, including a re