THE family of a popular junior football coach murdered in New York paid a heartfelt tribute to their much-loved son.
Michael Jones was stabbed in the stomach and neck in a brutal street attack on Sunday.
His family led the tributes to the 25-year-old as a community reeled from the news of his death.
Mr Jones, a youth coach for American soccer side New York Red Bulls, was attacked as he walked towards his girlfriend’s home in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The Edge Hill graduate had been enjoying a night out when he was attacked near Manhattan’s Union Square just after 4am (9am GMT).
Stabbed six times the talented sportsman also had his ear cut off in the attack.
Mr Jones’ father, Perry, 50, revealed the heartbreaking moment he and his wife Carole, 53, learned his son had been murdered was when a Facebook message to Michael’s brother, Philip, prompted him to call New York police department.
Speaking at their home on The Chimes, Tarleton, he said: “We got through to the officer who was dealing with the case and once he confirmed who I was he just told me that Michael had been murdered.
"I guessed it was something serious but I didn't think it would be a murder. I assumed with the Facebook message saying 'accident' – you don't really expect to be told that when you are ringing people up.”
With the news struggling to sink in the family are making tentative arrangements for when Michael’s body is repatriated.
Recalling his pride for his son, Mr Jones said: “Michael loved life, he enjoyed his job and he liked to go out and socialise and have a good time. He liked to go out and enjoy himself both when he was here and obviously over there in New York.
“Growing up he was a normal teenager then had a normal adulthood partying when he could and working in between. We have always been proud of him when he was here through school and college and proud with what he was doing, and [we were] so happy he was doing something he loved.
"We are just stuck in shock really...this is real, this is happening to us. You tend to think maybe you will wake up and it will be a dream."
Tributes to Michael have poured into the Advertiser since the news of his attack broke.
Simon Bland, who taught Mr Jones PE at Tarleton Academy labelled him a “dream student”.
He said: “He was someone who had so much natural talent – a PE teacher’s dream. He was well liked and well respected – a great role model to the younger students as he moved through the school.”
An Edge Hill university spokesperson added: “He was a hardworking student who was popular with his peers and with staff from the Department of Sport and Physical Activity. He had a bright future ahead of him.”
Mr Jones, who played football for both Tarleton Corinthians and Hesketh Bank AFC, last contacted his family to confirm the details of his flight home next month.
James Smith, first team captain at Hesketh Bank AFC said the club “would like to pass on their sincere condolences to the close friends and family of Michael Jones”.
The club will hold a minute’s silence before their weekend matches with the first team set to wear the all red of Tarleton Corinthians in their fixture at Coppull United in tribute to Michael.