Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a former Cray Wanderers and Sutton United footballer who died days before New Year’s Eve last year.

Orpington-born John Faulkner was 69 years old when he passed away on December 28.

The former defender played for Cray for two seasons between 1967 and 1969 before spending a year at Sutton United until 1970.

A Cray Wanderers statement said: “All at Cray Wanderers are saddened to hear of the passing of John Faulkner, aged 69, who passed away on December 28.

“[Mr] Faulkner was a key part of the side under the astute ownership of Mick Slater, making 96 appearances and scoring 14 goals before moving to Sutton United in 1969.

“John is remembered by all at Cray Wanderers, and we pass our condolences and thoughts to his family and wish them peace at this time.”

News of his death came to light around the times of the two clubs’ fixtures against Greenwich Borough and Macclesfield Town respectively.

A Sutton United statement said: “En route to Macclesfield yesterday (December 30), we were saddened to learn of the premature passing of a true Sutton United legend, John Faulkner.

“John may have only played 43 games in Sutton colours, but it was the story of his rapid rise from the lower reaches of English football to its very pinnacle in less than a year that captured the imagination, together with his performance against probably the toughest opposition in the club’s history.

“John joined the Us in the summer of 1969 from Cray Wanderers, then playing in the Metropolitan League, and he recalled having played in several positions before Us manager Sid Cann convinced him that his future lay as a centre-half.

“His eye for goal didn’t desert him though, he scored six times in just 25 Isthmian League games for the Us but then Leeds United came calling in the fourth round of the FA Cup.”

It continued that Mr Faulkner later became a sports psychologist, visited Sutton for its ‘legends days’ and volunteered to deliver coaching sessions, including for former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson.

It added: “That lecture, about three years ago, was the last time we saw John. A few months later we learned that he had fallen ill, and like all of his friends in football, we were devastated to learn of his death at the age of 69.

“Our thoughts and condolences go to his family and friends at this sad time.”

Other clubs Mr Faulkner was connected with, including AFC Wimbledon, Leeds United, Luton Town, and Norwich City have also paid tribute.

AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson said: “I first met John when he was training as a sports psychologist.

“He showed interest in our club, but modestly didn’t tell me about his own career until quite some time after we met.

“I was saddened to hear some time ago that he was suffering from a debilitating illness. He was a good man and is remembered fondly at the club by everyone who worked with him.”