TRIBUTES have been paid to a promising teenage footballer from Worcester who was found dead in a lake on Saturday.

Russell O'Neill, aged 17, of Ronkswood, had been swimming at Gullet Quarry in the Malvern Hills when tragedy struck.

The former Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College pupil failed to resurface while swimming in the water at the popular disused site at about 1pm.

Emergency services were called to the scene, including the Midlands Air Ambulance from Strensham, and after searching the lake for more than three hours his body was discovered at 4.50pm. Family and friends of Russell left heartfelt tributes and scattered petals into the water at the quarry near Castlemorton.

A note left at the sight from the parents of the teenager, said: “Russell, We will miss you so much. Life won’t be the same without you. You were our hero, our friend and a special son. No one could have wished for a better son than you were. We will miss your smile. You will always be in our thoughts and hearts. God bless. Hugs and kisses from mum and dad.”

There were more than 14 tribute notes and cards left for the popular youngster, another from his sister read: “Russell, where do I begin, I love you so much I can’t believe your gone. I hope your at peace now. I know you will be watching over us making sure we’re safe. I love you forever little Bro. If I could swap places with I would without a doubt. You have been cheated out of life at such a young age.

“Theres so much I want to say to you but as long as you no I love you forever and you’ll be in my heart until my last breath. love your Big sister Sophie xxx.” While a handwritten card from his niece said: “Uncle Russell, I miss you and love you too. Sleep tight. Love from Chloe xx”

Russell played for Worcester College of Technology Academy, which is linked to Worcester City.

Hundreds of comments from friends on social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook, referred to Russell’s ability on the pitch. The left wing played for Drakes Broughton Rangers football club and is the second team member to die suddenly.

Scott Holden, of Newlands, Pershore, was just 16 when he was found on Christmas Eve 2011 after suffering an epileptic fit triggered by an undetected brain tumour.

Team manager Rhys Goode knew Russell for around five years and said the “cheeky player” would be dearly missed by the whole team.

“He was a genuine jack the lad sort of joker,” he said. “Really nice lad and down to earth, always making people smile or laugh. A very popular lad.

“He was a very skilful player. To sum him up he would always try a few things on the pitch and he was a cheeky player. Football was his main hobby and playing pool.

“His death was a shock. It is not the sort of thing you expect to happen.

“I know the young lads go up the quarry to have a good time but it’s a shock to here that sort of thing happening.

“We lost Scott Holden and to lose both of them is a massive shock and quite sobering for the lads. He will be missed.”