Former Cobblers loan player Mitchell Cole has died of a heart attack at the age of 27.
Cole, who enjoyed a Sixfields loan spell under John Gorman in 2006, was forced to retire from professional football last year due to a rare heart defect.
The former Southend, Stevenage and Oxford United winger had been playing part-time at Arlesey Town in the seventh tier of English football.
And Arlesey confirmed on Twitter this morning: “Have just been informed of the sad news that Mitchell Cole passed away last night the thoughts of everyone at Arlesey are with his family.”
A tweet from the Professional Footballers’ Association added: “The PFA is deeply saddened by the loss of 27-year-old Mitchell Cole, our thoughts are with his friends and family.”
Cole made seven starts and two substitute appearances for the Cobblers, scoring one goal, the winner in a 1-0 victory against Millwall at the New Den.
Cole was the first player to score a competitive goal at the new Wembley Stadium, playing for Stevenage.
A statement from the Football League said: “We are sad to hear former Southend, Stevenage and Oxford player Mitchell Cole has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Cole, who was married to the sister of England international Joe Cole, scored for Stevenage against Kidderminster at Wembley in the 2007 FA Trophy Final. He said last year he would be risking death if he were to play again.
In an interview with The Sun he said: “A few players around the world die of this every year. The specialists told me that every day I have a one percent chance of dropping dead and sport quadruples that risk.
“When he gave me the numbers and showed me images of my heart, it hit me hard.”
Despite retiring from the professional game last year, Cole did make a handful of non-league appearances, some of which came for Arlesey.
However, according to their director of football, Gary King, watching Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffer a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup tie with Tottenham in March convinced Cole to give up the game for good.
King told Press Association Sport: “We were watching that game in the clubhouse and he turned to me and said `I`m not playing again`, although I`m told he might have been playing five-a-side in London last night.”