Tribute match in memory of St Albans City FC player
PUBLISHED: 09:37 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:37 21 March 2019
St Albans City Football Club is dedicating a match in tribute to former player and Love Island star Mike Thalassitis.
Mike, who helped the Saints retain their National League South status after signing for the club in 2016, was found dead on Saturday morning in a park near his childhood home in Edmonton, north London. His death is not being treated as suspicious.
Known to his teammates as ‘Thala’, the Cyprus U19 and U21 international scored six goals in 13 starts in the National League South, with two appearances off the bench. He also played for the Saints once in the Herts Senior Cup and the Herts Charity Cup.
Tom Bender, who played alongside him for St Albans City, said: “He was a very confident person. He loved being at the centre of attention in the changing rooms - people loved him and he made everyone laugh.
“One of the things we’d look forward to most on a match day was the stories he would tell in the car.
“When my son was born and I was changing careers outside of football he was really helping me get a job and it was something I was always grateful for.
“It was not a side of Thala that people saw. The person that I’ll remember is someone who always loved having a laugh and never took himself too seriously, and just wanted to have fun and always had a smile on his face.”
Before playing for St Albans, Mike began his football career at Stevenage FC, where he was given his first professional football contract in 2011. He also had stints at Bishop’s Stortford, Chelmsford City and Concord Rangers.
Tom said: “It didn’t take long for him to immerse himself with the team.
“There were a few of us who had a really close bond. We formed a bond that lasted longer than the time we were in the club together.”
Responding to the news of his death, St Albans City said on social media that they were ‘shocked and saddened’.
They tweeted: “The team, fans and all those who worked with Michael during his time at the club have very fond memories and pass on their deepest sympathies to his family & friends.”
During his time playing for the club, Mike scored six goals in 17 games, once scoring the vital goal which won an away game against Maidenhead.
Manager Ian Allinson said: “They were all important games because we were in a relegation battle at the end of 2016 and those goals were vital.
“He was a great lad. He was very jovial and very funny. He had a laugh and a joke but when he had to take a serious side he could be serious.
“When it came to football he took it very seriously. He was a good player.
“It’s such a sad situation to be in at such a young age. There’s not been one bad word about the boy. He was infectious in the way he went about everyday life.
“It just seems so sad. In my mind you have to wonder why.”
Mike appeared in the third series of Love Island in 2017. On the show he was affectionately known as ‘Muggy Mike’ after being a hit with the ladies.
In the wake of the news of his death, the show’s host, Caroline Flack, posted: “Mike... you were a total gentleman... I won’t forget that... it’s so sad... you will be missed. RIP.”
Last year Mike joined the fourth series of Channel 4’s Celebs Go Dating, and was represented by Neon Management at the time of his death.
He had also been planning to open a café called The Skillet in Loughton, Essex, with floral tributes left outside at the weekend.
Stacey Turner, founder of St Albans mental health awareness campaign It’s OK To Say, said: “We as a community are deeply saddened by Mike Thalassitis’ death and Saturday’s game will be a beautiful tribute to him.
“It’s OK To Say strives to encourage people to put support in place on an everyday basis rather than when things escalate.
“ITV have issued statements claiming following his death they will now be proactive in providing aftercare for reality TV personalities.
“That’s the problem, the word aftercare, after is too late! There’s a before and during, so let’s look after the ‘during’ on an everyday basis as a prevention.”
St Albans City FC’s game against Gloucester City FC on Saturday will be dedicated to Mike. Kick off is at 3pm in Clarence Park, and a number of former players will be coming to support the game.
There will be a minute’s applause before kick off in honour of Mike, and the club will be collecting for It’s OK To Say and and local mental health charity Youth Talk.