LOU MACARI has admitted that news of Paul Ware's death came as a "massive shock" to him . . . after paying a visit to the former Stoke City player's family on his way to an appearance at the Britannia Stadium on Thursday evening.
Macari spent time with Ware's wife Tracey and two teenage daughters, Laura and Amy, at their Sandbach home before attending an event which had been organised by the Stoke City Old Boys Association at which he was the special guest.
Although the 42-year-old Congleton-born player had fought a long battle against cancer and had undergone surgery on a brain tumour, his former City manager had shared the optimism of many other people that he would make a recovery.
Speaking to stokecityfc.com before that SCOBA evening in the Waddington Suite, he revealed: "I went to see his wife this afternoon. It's never easy walking into a house where someone has lost a loved one, as I know from my own personal experience.
"It's very difficult where to start a conversation, it's even more difficult trying to finish a conversation when you've had a chat about many different things.
"Tracey has obviously looked after him for the past couple of years and during that two year period, I think they had got their hopes up that he was going to recover.
"I certainly did because when I spoke to him, he gave me nothing but positive news. I thought: 'typical of Paul Ware, he's a lad full of courage. He'll battle his way back from the cancer and he will recover'. So, it came as a massive shock when I heard the news."
He added: "I really did think he would recover, but unfortunately, he leaves a wife and two lovely children. It's tragic when you lose someone so young."
Ware was a member of the City squad led by Macari which won the Autoglass Trophy in the 1991-92 season and followed it up with promotion glory twelve months later.
His former boss spoke of his tremendous commitment to the Club and his professionalism, even when he wasn't a regular in the starting line-up.
"I think you can forget about the football side of it because what happens on a football pitch is there for everyone to see," commented Macari.
"What people don't see is what somebody is like off the pitch.
"He never gave me any problems whatsoever, even though he wasn't a regular in the team every week. He never came knocking on my door, saying why am I not in the side?
"In fairness, there were a lot of good players and he realised he wasn't going to be in the side week in, week out. He would do extra training when he was not in the team and all I know is that when I did call upon him, he never let me down.
"That's what you want from any of the players, even nowadays. That's what you are looking for from any player, to do his work, to do it honestly and as well as he can. That was what Paul Ware was all about throughout his time at the Club.
"Stoke was the Club that he wanted to play for and whenever he did play, he would always give 100 per cent. You knew what you were going to get from him.
"You could never guarantee that he was going to turn in a fantastic performance, like any player. But what you could be guaranteed was that he would give his all right from the very start, right to the very end of a game."