AT first glance in his Bolton Wanderers days, Jlloyd Samuel was the epitome of a modern day Premier League footballer.

Always dressed immaculately, earlobes bejewelled, he’d drive into the training ground in a vehicle us Average Joes would drool over, and when work was done he was at the centre of the North West footballer’s social scene.

When he put his home on the market in 2011 it was headline news. It had a cinema, for crying out loud. But this was a different age at Wanderers, a time when they were dining at football’s top table and the accessories to match.

But to dismiss the former Aston Villa full-back as some Big Time Charlie would have been lazy and wholly inaccurate. He was anything but.

The Jlloyd we got to know in the local press was the Trinidad-born boy who’d learned to play football on the muddy pitches of Wanstead Flats in East London before being picked up by Charlton Athletic.

Sure, he had John Terry, Bobby Zamora, Ledley King and Paul Konchesky for team-mates at the legendary Senrab club, but that earthy background meant there was no sense of entitlement when you asked for an interview.

While Sammy Lee took credit for making Samuel his first signing of a brief spell at the Bolton helm, it had been Sam Allardyce who had his eye on the Villa man as he approached the final few months of his contract, following a decade of service in the Midlands.

He was signed ahead of West Ham, Portsmouth and Middlesbrough on a four-year contract which reflected the demand his was in at the time.

My first meeting with Samuel was – if memory serves right – his first game for Bolton. A pre-season friendly against Tranmere Rovers.

Fuelled by youthful exuberance and with a player all to myself, I may have tried to suggest he should be knocking on the door for England if he could get regular football at the (then) Reebok. But he shrugged off my question, put his hand on my shoulder and said “come on mate, I only started two games at Villa last season!”

He got to be a regular attendee in those post-match press conferences. A safe pair of hands who had such good contacts in the game he’d always supply you with a tale by dropping in the name of a well-known opponent.

Jlloyd also had children of similar ages to my own. And my abiding memory of him will always be the long and frighteningly-detailed conversation we had about kids’ TV programme, LazyTown. His love for his family always came shining through.

His time at Bolton peaked in the first two years but when Gary Megson brought in his trusted lieutenant Paul Robinson in from West Brom, Samuel’s chances were limited from there on in.

After Owen Coyle replaced Megson the full-back got a bad thigh injury in a pre-season game against Osasuna and was loaned out to Cardiff City on his return. He also managed to get into the international set-up for Trinidad and Tobago, even though the travelling was not necessarily to the liking of the Bolton management team.

What puzzled me is that he did not get back into the game in England. After a long search for a club he played for a spell in Iran and searched again at a lower level on his return.

He clearly played for love because right up until the tragic accident on Tuesday morning he was turning out for Egerton FC in the Cheshire League, a return to the muck and nettles he had seen as a youngster.

At 37 he had a long life to live with his family and that is what makes the news he is no longer with us all the more difficult to bear.