League One - Mitchell Cole dies aged 27

Former Southend, Stevenage and Oxford United player Mitchell Cole has died aged 27.

Cole retired from professional football last February due to a rare heart defect.

Cole started his career at West Ham United but was released in 2004. He then joined Grays Athletic before moving to Southend United in 2005, making 33 appearances.

He signed for Stevenage in January 2007 and scored in the first competitive final at the new Wembley Stadium as his side beat Kidderminster Harriers to lift the FA Trophy

Cole was part of the team that secured promotion to the Football League before joining League Two side Oxford United in 2010.

He last played for Southern Football League Premier Division side Arlesey Town in the seventh tier of English football.

The club confirmed on Twitter: “Have just been informed of the sad news that Mitchell Cole passed away last night the thoughts of everyone at Arlesey are with his family.”

A tweet from the Professional Footballers' Association added: "The PFA is deeply saddened by the loss of 27-year-old Mitchell Cole, our thoughts are with his friends and family."

Cole, who was married to the sister of England international Joe Cole, said last year he would be risking death if he were to play again.

In an interview with The Sun, he said: "A few players around the world die of this every year. The specialists told me that every day I have a one percent chance of dropping dead and sport quadruples that risk.

"When he gave me the numbers and showed me images of my heart, it hit me hard."

According to Arlesey's director of football, Gary King, watching Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffer a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup tie with Tottenham in March convinced Cole to give up the game for good.

King told Press Association Sport: "We were watching that game in the clubhouse and he turned to me and said `I`m not playing again`, although I`m told he might have been playing five-a-side in London last night."