Former Birmingham City defender Sam Oji has died at the age of 35, his club announced on Saturday.

The footballer, who started his career as an Arsenal youth player, also featured for Doncaster Rovers, Bristol Rovers and Leyton Orient and in July became assistant manager of Highgate United.

In a statement on Saturday, the club said: “It is with a very heavy heart that I am deeply saddened to inform you that our beloved Captain, Leader and Legend Samuel Oji has sadly passed away.

“The thoughts of all at Highgate United FC are with Sam’s wife, children and family at this very sad time.”

Highgate United released a statement on social media on Friday saying Mr Oji was “extremely ill” but was “still fighting like the warrior that he is”.

Birmingham City FC also paid tribute to their former player, tweeting: “The Club is devastated to hear of the passing of former player Sam Oji, aged 35. The thoughts of everyone at #BCFC are with Sam’s family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”

Leyton Orient said it was “deeply saddened to learn the news” of Mr Oji’s death. “Rest in peace, Sam,” it added. 

Former Aston Villa player Lee Hendrie, who played with Mr Oji at Tamworth between 2012 and 2013 also paid tribute to his former team-mate. 

He said: “So sad to hear the news about the big man @SamuelOji_24. One of the nicest guys you meet on and off the pitch. Thinking of the family. Gone far to soon. R.I.P big man.”

Reference: Microsoft News: Poppy Wood