A FOOTBALL fan who was about to embark on a new role with Brighton & Hove Albion has died suddenly at the age of 38.
Sam Paterson-Sleep, from Shoreham, was out running in Southwick on Thursday, January 16, when she suddenly collapsed.
Passers-by rushed to help and when the heavens opened, nearby neighbours brought out tarpaulin to cover her while police and ambulance crews treated her.
She was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital, where she died the next day from a brain aneurysm.
Neville Dalton, from Sent Her Forward, an online look at women’s football in the south east, said she was widely respected.
“Sam was well known and widely respected in women’s football as a loyal, passionate fan, both of England and her beloved Brighton & Hove Albion, where she had just become marketing officer for the ladies’ team,” he said.
He met her on January 12 at the Withdean Stadium, where she was watching for the first time as a member of staff rather than just a supporter.
“She was courteous, welcoming, excited and enthusiastic,” he added.
“She had so many plans for spreading the word about ‘her’ team to the wider world – and myriad ideas about how to involve more youngsters at the club that only time and resources would prevent her implementing.”
Sam and with her then partner of 15 years, Lisa Sleep, were voted FA Women’s Supporters of the Year in 2011.
She was also much-loved as a drama teacher at Varndean College in Brighton.
College principal Philip Harland said: “Sam was a gifted teacher, held in high esteem by her colleagues but more importantly she was much loved by her students.
“She treated each of her students as individuals and was able to inspire them to be the very best they could be.
“Varndean College is a relatively-small community and we have all been affected in some way. The students established a small memorial in in our gardens,” placing flowers and burning candles there.”
The school will be closed on Monday as a mark of respect and to allow staff and students to attend her funeral.
A celebration of her life will be held at Woodvale Crematorium, Lewes Road, Brighton, on Monday, February 3, at 11.30am.