FORMER Burnden Park team-mates have led tributes to Chris Thompson, the ex-Wanderers starlet who died at his Midlands home at the weekend, aged 52.

Peter Reid, who was an established member of the Bolton team when Thompson stepped up from the reserves to play First Division football at the age of 19, said the Walsall-born England Youth international was the pick of a talented group of youngsters who graduated from the club’s junior ranks.

“A really good group of young players came through in that era, including David Burke and Dave Hoggan, but Chris was the star at that time,” said Reid, the former England international and Manchester City and Sunderland manager.

“He had good control, handled the ball well and scored a few goals. He was such a classy finisher, he seemed to pass the ball into the net.

“He never quite fulfilled his potential but he went round the clubs and was a pleasant lad. It’s so sad to lose someone so young.”

Thompson signed professional forms with Wanderers in 1977 and made his senior debut later that year in a League Cup tie against Peterborough. He made 15 First Division appearances in the 1979-80 season in which Wanderers were relegated and went on to make 81 appearances for the club, scoring 20 goals.

Seamus McDonagh, the Wanderers’ keeper at the time and now goalkeeping coach at Sunderland, said he had been “rocked” by the news of his former team-mate’s death.

“I find it hard to think he’s passed away at 52,” he said. “I can see Chris now, in his kit. He was a lively lad, always a threat on the right and looked like he was going to do really well in the game. Then we had that decline and weren’t winning as many games as we should have done and he seemed to suffer from that. If he’d have been in a better side I’m sure he would have blossomed.

John Thomas, who also hailed from the West Midlands, arrived at Burnden from Everton in 1980 and found a friend in Thompson.

“When I first arrived, the club had me staying in a hotel, but Chris took me under his wing – even though he was younger than me – and put me up at his house,” said the former Wanderers striker. “We came from the same area – we’d only lived a couple of miles from each other – and I was so grateful for the help he gave me. We played a few games together and I remember people were predicting big things for him.

“It’s sad to lose anyone, but when they are so young it’s tragic.”

Thompson left Burnden to join rivals, Blackburn, in the summer of 1983 and after reverting to his original position of striker, was Rovers’ top league scorer in the 84-85 season. He went on to play for Wigan Athletic and Blackpool before ending his career at Walsall.