A FORMER Blackburn Rovers star died a lonely death at his home after he hit the bottle and shut himself away from friends and family.

The badly decomposed body of reclusive Chris Thompson, 52, who had also been a top star at Bolton Wanderers, was found collapsed in the hallway at his home in Anderson Gardens, Tipton on June 1, an inquest heard.

Walsall-born attacking mid-fielder Mr Thompson, scored 26 times during his 100 appearances for Rovers.

Black Country coroner Robin Balmain heard evidence from Mr Thompson’s sister Maureen Bradshaw, who said: “He suffered from depression and he used to lock himself away until he was ready to come and see you.

“You couldn’t contact him. I had got a key to get into the house but I could never get in because he used to bolt the doors.

“At Christmas he went down-hill because he had got to go to hospital – they were testing him for bowel cancer just after Christmas.”

Although Mr Thompson was given the all-clear he showed little sign of improvement in his mental state and ‘wasn’t his proper self’ when he visited his sister in March, she said.

Mrs Bradshaw said her brother had previously run a pub in St Anne’s with his ex-partner but had had an ‘on-and-off’ drink problem ‘for some years’.

Her husband William was the last person to visit him, in April.

He said: “He would sit there watching television and just keep himself to himself. He would just be sitting there reminiscing.” Mr Thompson’s family revealed at the inquest, at Smethwick Council House, that he had almost died from drinking five years ago.

A post mortem confirmed that Mr Thompson had cirrhosis of the liver and that his death was ‘most likely’ related to alcohol – either excessive consumption or withdrawal.

England international Peter Reid, an established member of the Bolton team when Thompson made his First Division debut at the age of 19, said the England Youth international was the shining light among a talented group of youngsters who graduated from the club’s junior ranks.

He said: “He had good control, handled the ball well and scored a few goals.

“He never quite fulfilled his potential but he went round the clubs and was a pleasant lad.”

He also played for Wigan Athletic, Blackpool and Cardiff City before ending his career with hometown Walsall in 1991.