A YOUNG footballer collapsed and died only hours before he was due to book his wedding with his fiancee.

Devastated Emma Ferrier is now facing a future without Paul Leach after the 23-year-old died suddenly during a Sunday League football game at the weekend.

Miss Ferrier, who will be 22 tomorrow, last night opened her heart to pay tribute to her partner of four years and said their dreams of a life together had been shattered.

"Paul was such a special person - he gave a lot of love to everyone," she said.

"I just can't understand why he has died.

"I dropped him off at football on Sunday morning and he was fine. We were looking forward to booking the church together for our wedding on Sunday afternoon.

"Now I don't know what I'm going to do without him. I loved him and we had so much planned together. Now it is gone."

The couple bought a house together in Campion Grove, Marton Manor, Middlesbrough, four months ago and Mr Leach proposed to Miss Ferrier, who works for Barclay Card, little over a month ago.

They were planning to wed at St Cuthbert's Church, in Ormesby, in June 2007 surrounded by their close-knit families and friends.

Miss Ferrier said her boyfriend, a designer for Lowe and Simpson staircase company, in Stockton, was extremely popular and was known for his sense of humour, love of sport and easy going nature.

A former Acklam Grange School pupil, he had played in the youth team for Nottingham Forest for five years, and then for Thornaby FC in the Northern League, before joining his latest club, Preston Farm Motors.

Mr Leach's parents, Mal and Jan, who had moved to Cleethorpes, in Lincolnshire, returned to Teesside at the weekend after hearing of his death. He was the youngest of their three sons.

Workmates at Lowe and Simpson said they were in total shock.

Secretary Sue Brown said: "He left work on Friday night with everybody else, saying 'see you Monday' and that was the last time we saw him."

An inquest is to be held into Mr Leach's death.

The family hopes a funeral service will be held at St Bede's Chapel at Teesside Crematorium, in Acklam, on Monday, before burial. Details will follow.