A footballer who was once compared to Roy Keane by a former England manager has died.

The Sussex footballing community is mourning the death of Karly Akehurst, a “special player” who featured in top teams across the county.

Karly was a star at Worthing FC in the early 2010s and it was thought he could have a glittering career in the higher leagues.

He then played for Burgess Hill before joining Horsham in 2013, where he made 17 appearances and scored both goals in their 2-1 win over former side Worthing to win the Brighton Charity Cup.

Karly, who was in his 30s and lived in Brighton, also enjoyed successful stints at Withdean, Peacehaven and Telscombe, Haywards Heath and Whitehawk.

Whitehawk manager Shaun Saunders said: “I was truly devastated to hear the news. Like many others I know the family very well and have been blessed to have had a special relationship with Karly for many years.

“Truly a special man and we will miss him very much. I know what the family are going through now and we hold them all in our thoughts and prayers.”

The Argus: Whitehawk manager Shaun Saunders with Karly after winning the Shout Out cupWhitehawk manager Shaun Saunders with Karly after winning the Shout Out cup (Image: Andy Schofield)

Perhaps Karly’s proudest moment was when he had trials for the Glenn Hoddle Academy, aged 20, with the former England manager comparing him to ex-Manchester United star Roy Keane.

Karly, who also had trials for Albion, said at the time: “Glenn Hoddle spoke to me afterwards and said I did really well and also said he was really surprised no League One or Two clubs had been interested in me.

“That was really good to hear coming from an ex-England manager.”

Karly’s father Martin said: “I had some feedback from my cousin who knows Hoddle. Hoddle thought Karly was a Roy Keane type of player who gets stuck in and has drive.”

Away from football, Karly was a beloved son, father, brother, uncle, nephew and cousin who is remembered fondly by all who knew him.

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A minute’s silence will be held at 3pm at The Enclosed Ground, Brighton, on Saturday when Whitehawk play Cray Wanderers.

Police say an investigation is ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding Karly’s death on Tuesday.

Officers said he was found at a property in Circus Street, Brighton, a “life-threatening condition” and taken to hospital, where he later died. His next of kin have been informed.