TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Saints youth player, allegedly abused by coach Bob Higgins, who died in a car crash.

The former Coventry and Millwall player, aged 47, suffered 'irreparable brain damage' while a passenger in a silver Ford Transit which collided with parked vehicles and a wall near Reading on Thursday evening.

Ex-pros including 'devastated' West Ham star Trevor Sinclair and Steve Walters, director of the Offside Trust, today spoke of their 'heartbreak'.

Seymour, a Southampton FC youth player in his teens, was the only alleged victim to waive his anonymity in Higgins' trial in May last year.

His death comes just two months before Higgins is set to face a retrial over 48 counts of sexually abusing young boys.

At the end of his trial, in July last year, Higgins, 65, was convicted of abusing one of 24 alleged victims, however jurors failed to reach verdicts on the 48 other counts.

Seymour's friend and fellow campaigner, Steve Walters, 46, paid tribute to him and said: "When I heard the news I just broke down, I'm feeling a mixture of shock, anger and devastation.

"I don't know how one person can go through so much in his life and still have such a warm and friendly personality, he had a heart of gold."

He added: "He's going to be so sorely missed, we went to school together so I know his family well and they will be absolutely devastated."

Former pro Trevor Sinclair added: "Devastated. Always had a special connection with Billy from our Lilleshall days. Condolences to his family and loved ones."

Thames Valley Police said the van driver has been charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to provide a roadside breath test and using a motor vehicle on a road/public place without third party insurance.

He will appear at Reading Crown Court next month.