FORMER Chester City defender Spencer Whelan has died aged just 49.

Kevin Ratcliffe, who was Whelan’s boss at The Deva and later signed him for £30,000 while manager at Shrewsbury Town, described him as ‘the perfect player to manage’.

“He was a great player to have in your team and it’s such sad news.

“He was so close to a move to Crystal Palace. I’d agreed a fee of £650,000 but the chairman wanted more and the deal fell through.

“He gave you everything on the pitch.”

Whelan began his career at Liverpool as an apprentice but a professional contract didn’t materialise and he signed for Chester in 1990 where he made nearly 250 appearances in an eight-year spell.

Injuries limited Whelan’s appearances for The Shrews where his last game before being forced to retire at the age of 29 was against Chester in March 2000.

Ex-team-mate and fellow Liverpudlian Shaun Reid tweeted: “Gutted to hear the news my ex team mate Spencer Whelan has passed away last night.Good night, god bless mate.”

Another who played alongside Whelan was attacker Neil Morton, who tweeted: “Gutted,one of the nicest bloke you’ll ever meet..sad loss.”

And the club also paid their respects with a message on their website that read: “Chester Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Spencer Whelan at the age of 49.

“The defender made more than 200 appearances for the Blues in the 1990’s. We send our sincerest condolences to his family and friends. RIP Spencer.”