A FATHER paid tribute to his footballer son yesterday after he lost his battle against cancer. Darren Wilcox, 21, who had played for St Johnstone, East Stirlingshire and Kilmarnock, died on Friday after an 18-month fight with leukaemia.
The left-back from Perth was the youngest ever player to make an appearance for St Johnstone, aged just 15 years and nine months.
His father Jim told yesterday how his family stood around his bed after they made the decision to turn 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 his leukaemia took a turn for the worse in June and come November he needed a stem cell transplant.
“He was worried about the operation and had done 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 through it.”
Mr Wilcox said his son’s condition began to deteriorate two weeks ago.
“He picked up an infection in his lungs and his condition went downhill from there,” he 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.
“It was a devastating moment because up until then Darren thought he was going to make it, and so did everyone else.
“It’s crushed the family, and it’s my worst nightmare come true.
“I was so proud of what he’d achieved in football – we were so proud of when he made it to Kilmarnock.”
The footballer was due to go to Robert Gordon University but his planned admission was postponed because of the cancer.
As well as Mr Wilcox, he leaves behind mother Elaine and brother Colin.
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 the player 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 to his
The footballer last played for junior side Luncarty during the 2009-10 season before his illness.
A spokesman for the club said: “He was a very talented young lad who had so much going for him and sadly passed away on Friday. He will leave a great gap in so many lives.”