'They don't make them like Tom anymore' - tributes pour in to much-loved Sheffield dad who died suddenly aged 31

Tributes have poured in after a hugely popular dad-of-two from Sheffield died suddenly aged just 31.

Tom Dudley, who lived in Woodseats with his partner Simone and their daughters Lyla, three, and Hallie, aged nine months, died unexpectedly on May 14.

He was a keen footballer and his death has rocked fellow players, who have described him as a ‘first class lad’ and told how ‘infectious joy abounded when he was around’.

Simone said: “One of his friends said Tom didn’t ask for attention, it just naturally came to him, and I think that beautifully sums him up.

Tom Dudley (centre) with fellow footballers Brendan White (left) and Gerard Gorman (right)

"Tom would draw people together. He always found time for other people and he was just so kind. Someone said they don’t make people like Tom anymore, and it’s true, they don’t.

"I’ll never forget how, early on when we’d been dating each other for a little while, he turned up one day with a bunch of flowers and asked ‘will you be my girlfriend’. He was a proper romantic.

"He was such an amazing dad, too. His girls were his world, his everything.”

Tom Dudley (bottom right) enjoying a drink with his friends at Goals Sheffield

Tom, who was one of five siblings, grew up in Millhouses and attended Mylnhurst Preparatory School and Silverdale School. He went on to become a salesman, working all his adult life at Pyramid Carpets in Woodseats.

The Sheffield United fan played for a number of teams and was a regular at Goals Sheffield, opposite Norfolk Park, where he would join friends for a kickabout every Tuesday.

Jake Day, who organised those kickabouts, said: “As soon as he would turn up, everyone in the car park knew he was there. You would hear his voice from across the car park and he made everyone smile. It was always a laugh when he was around. He just made everything much more fun.

"He was like a big brother to me and whatever was happening he always made you feel like things were alright.

"Even if a game was going rubbish and it was absolutely hammering it down with rain, he would stand there in the rain and make you laugh and suddenly it didn’t seem so bad.

"When he came to Goals the first thing he spoke about was always his kids. You could tell he was such a proud dad. I don’t have children but the way he talked about them with such love made me think it must be amazing to be a dad.”

Tom also played football with the Old Southsiders on Sundays, which is how John Davies knew him.

John said of Tom, whom he had known since Tom’s teenage days: “What a character. He was always pleased to see you and an infectious joy abounded when he was around. He was a first class lad in every sense."

Brendan White, who also knew Tom through the Old Southsiders, said: “He was such a nice lad. Everyone who played with him is devastated because they all thought so highly of him.

"He’s always been such a pleasure to know. He was full of life and he’s always been so popular because he was just so friendly. He got on with everyone and he was one of those kids who there’s nothing not to like about him.

"I’ve been going through a hard time and he would send me a message every now and again just asking how I was. That’s the kind of man he was.”

Brendan described how Tom had been a regular at the Porter Brook pub on Ecclesall Road and had always invited Brendan along when he visited and made sure to come over and talk to Brendan even when he was there with other friends as he never wanted anyone to feel left out.

Simone told how Hallie had been seriously ill for much of her short life and had spent more than 100 days in hospital after being born prematurely but she was doing well now and they had been making the most of having her back home with them before tragedy struck.

She said that during lockdown, before Hallie was born, she, Tom and Lyla would often take a short walk to listen to the doorstep concerts a local businessman was putting on and the three of them enjoyed dancing together.

Simone said Tom loved cooking and, as a member of Slimming World, enjoyed finding new recipes to try.

"He was just so happy, and he was a real peacekeeper. He really was a gentle giant,” she said.

"I don’t think anyone had a bad word to say about him.”

Simone told how Tom was an organ donor and following his death had potentially changed people’s lives.

Tom is survived by his parents, Alison and Mick, his grandparents Kathleen and Mary, and his siblings, Hannah, Olivia, David and Steven.

In a moving statement, his family said: “Tom was loved by all the family, so many friends and by all those whose lives he touched.

"We will all miss Tom’s lovely smile and the joyous times we shared together.”

His funeral is due to take place at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium on Thursday, June 3, at 12.30pm.

Numbers inside the crematorium are limited but people have been invited to contact Tom’s family if they wish to view a live stream of the service, and a celebration of his life is planned for a later date.

Tom’s family have asked for any donations in his memory to be made to the neonatal ward at the Jessop Wing.