Tributes have poured in for former Motherwell defender Christian Mbulu after he passed away aged 23.
The combative centre back played on just six occasions for the Steelmen, but made an impression on teammates during his spell at Fir Park during the 2018/19 season.
A statement by English League Two outfit Morecambe FC, Mbulu’s most recent employers, confirmed the news on Tuesday night.
They wrote: "Everyone at Morecambe FC is deeply saddened to learn of Christian's death and would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends at this very sad time.
"He was only 23 and the news of his sudden and untimely passing has been a shock to us all.
"Christian came to the club in January and proved to be an extremely popular member of the squad. His loss will be painfully felt by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
"The club would ask everyone to respect Christian's family's privacy at this sad time."
From Millwall to Motherwell
Born in Newham, Mbulu started his professional career at South London club Millwall, following two years with non-league club Brentwood Town.
Then a teenager Mbulu was unable to earn a start while at The Den though reportedly caught the eye of elite clubs including Chelsea. The Sun drew comparisons between Mbulu and Roma defender Chris Smalling who also started out in non-league football.
During his time in South London Mbulu was loaned out on two occasions to Canvey Island and Braintree Town.
In 2018 Mbulu swapped the English capital for North Lanarkshire, joining Steve Robinson’s Motherwell.
Initially deployed in Stephen Craigan’s reserve team Mbulu impressed early on earning the Player of the Round award in the third round of the Scottish Challenge Cup after scoring in a 2-0 win over Sligo Rovers for an under-21 Motherwell side.
He would go on to earn six appearances for Motherwell.
In the most recent Summer transfer window Robinson opted not to extend Mbulu’s contract and the defender headed south of the border to Cheshire club Crewe Alexandra before moving onto League Two side Morecambe FC.
Mbulu was on the verge of earning a starting place for the Lancashire club before his untimely death.
Tributes to Mbulu
The 23-year-old left a lasting impression on his former Motherwell teammates.
Posting on his Instagram account defender Charles Dunne said: “Actually can’t believe im saying this! RIP Mbulu… Only spoke to him yesterday!”
Dunne added: “Took Mbulu under my wing when he came up to Scotland. Its not easy moving up alone, became my brother! Always smiling always positive just took anything that come his way in his stride. R.I.P My broo… Im smiling looking in my camera roll at some of the funny times.”
In his own post Motherwell right back Richard Tait said “So sad to hear this news, taken far too soon Rip”.
Motherwell CEO Alan Burrows tweeted:” I am absolutely shocked and totally devastated for Christian’s family and friends. I cannot believe it; he was such a nice bloke and always had a positive outlook. May he rest in peace.”
The club’s head of sports science Alan Boles tweeted: “Such sad news. Just a real nice guy taken far too soon. Thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Motherwell fan Robbie Boyd relayed an anecdote of when he met the player, tweeting: “Gutted to hear the about big Christian guy had a heart of gold. Remeber standing outside FP Friday before the first big derby of the season, he sees my wee cousin standing nervous walks over to him giving him a high 5 and asking if he’d like a picture. Gent of a guy so sad RIP”.
Livingston FC sent their condolences when the news broke, tweeting: “Terrible, terrible news. Deepest condolences from all at Livingston Football Club.”
Hearts player Sean Clare also paid tribute on Instagram writing: “Life is not promised no matter how clean hearted you are. Rest in peace king”.