John Aldridge has expressed his feelings of “shock and numbness” after news emerged that his former Real Sociedad strike partner Dalian Atkinson has died at the age of 48.
Ex-Aston Villa striker Atkinson died after a taser gun was deployed on him by police in the early hours of Monday morning as they attended an incident after officers were called amid what is being described as concerns "for the safety of an individual".
The death of Atkinson has shaken the football family, with Aldridge touched more than most after he formed a close bond with the former Aston Villa striker in their days together at Real Socieded in Spain.
In an exclusive interview with Independent.ie, a clearly shaken Aldridge was struggling to come to terms with he death of a player he spent so much time with during their time together in Spain.
“I am struggling to come to terms with all this because Dalian and I were so close during our time together at Real Sociedad,” Aldo tells us.
“He was a young lad coming into the Sociedad team at the same time as me and I took him under my wing for a year. We were room-mates, best pals and got on great on and off the pitch.
I'm absolutely gutted to hear the news of dalian dying,can't take it in really,my thoughts are with his family!so sad RIP My friend!— John Aldridge (@Realaldo474) August 15, 2016
“Dalian was such a funny fella, great to be around. He was hilarious with some of the things he came out with. I can’t tell you some of the stories from our time together as they might get him into trouble, but we became very close and did everything together during our time together at Real Sociedad.
“I felt like his baby sitter at times as he tried to settle in Spain and we got on like a house on fire. I suppose we were good for each other as we were both finding out feet in Spain and we also struck up a great striking partnership on the pitch as well.
“He was also one hell of a player. On his day, Dalian was unmarkable, with his pace, power and finishing frightening any defender that he came up against and it just seems impossible to imagine that he is gone at the age of 48.
“I haven’t spoke to Dalian for a good while now, but he is the kind of lad you would bump into and instantly, you could pick up from where you left off. This all just seems unbelievable to me. Such a tragedy.”
That's the way I'll remember dalian!cheers https://t.co/rxCcMluRjc— John Aldridge (@Realaldo474) August 15, 2016
Aldridge went on to recall his finest moment on the field with Atkinson, as they terrorized Spanish champions Barcelona on a memorable occasion at the Nou Camp.
“Barcelona were a top side and they had just been crowned as league winners, so we clapped them on to the field before the game and they ripped into them when the match got underway,” he adds.
“Dalian just tore then apart from start to finish. They couldn’t handle him. He scored one and I scored twice in a 3-1 win, with both of my goals set up by big Dalian.
“When you saw him playing like that on such a big stage and against top opposition, you appreciated what he was all about. He was a great player and this is a great loss.
I'll always remember When we beat Barca at the Nou camp 3-1,after they lifted the LaLiga trophy!Dalian ran them ragged,What a performance!— John Aldridge (@Realaldo474) August 15, 2016
“My thoughts are with Dalian’s family. Rest in peace pal.”
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