TALENTED: Former St Johnstone defender Darren Wilcox lost his battle against leukaemia, aged 21. Picture: SNS Group
Darren Wilcox, 21 – who had played for St Johnstone, East Stirlingshire and Kilmarnock – died after an 18-month fight with leukaemia.
The left-back from Perth was the youngest ever player to make an appearance for Saints, aged just 15 years and nine months.
His father Jim told yesterday how the whole family stood around Darren's bed after they turned off his life support machine.
Mr Wilcox said: "It's just devastated our lives. Words can't describe what an absolute nightmare this is. Darren's death has just destroyed us.
"He showed so many signs of improving and was even in remission last April. But he took a turn for the worse in June and come November he needed a stem cell transplant.
"He was worried about the operation and did a lot of research into it. But after it he told me 'if this is the worst it gets then this is a breeze'.
"Darren battled on so hard, and never for a second did we think he would die. He seemed to take the treatment so bravely, and showed such strength. Everything was going so well up until two weeks ago. That's when it started to go downhill."
Mr Wilcox jnr picked up an infection in his lungs and his condition deteriorated.
His father said: "A week ago he told me that he knew he was not going to make it, so he took every member of the family aside and spoke with them about his life."
He was due to go to Robert Gordon University but his planned admission was postponed because of his cancer ordeal.
As well as his father, he leaves behind his mother Elaine, 49, and brother Colin, 24.
Former clubs and teammates yesterday spoke of their shock at his death.
St Johnstone tweeted: "Club very sad to learn of the death of former youth player Darren Wilcox, who lost his fight against illness."
Arbroath manager Paul Sheerin, who worked with Darren at St Johnstone, tweeted: "Shocked at the news. He was a great lad and a pleasure to have coached."
Former St Johnstone teammate Alan Main, added: "So sad to hear Darren Wilcox has passed away my thoughts are with his family. RIP Darren."
Derek McKenzie, head coach of East Stirlingshire, said: "The youth department at the club was devastated to hear of this sad news. Darren was an excellent footballer as well as being a great person to have around the club and our thoughts go out his family."
He last played for junior side Luncarty during the 2009-10 season before his illness.
A club spokesman said: "We as a club are proud to have had Darren as part of our team and he will be sadly missed."
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