A FORMER Blackburn Rovers Ladies player has died aged 21 after a three-year cancer battle.

‘Inspirational’ mother-of-two Emma Mincher fought the disease three times, but lost her struggle yesterday morning.

She died with husband Stefan, parents Mike and Sandy McDougall and other close family by her side.

Midfielder Emma, who is known by her maiden name of McDougall by fans, joined Rovers from Fletcher Moss in 2008 and went on to make 30 first team appearances for the club.

She was forced to give up playing for the team when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 18.

Scott Rogers, Rovers Ladies manager, who worked with Emma at reserve team level, said she was ‘a wing wizard with lightning quick pace’.

He said: “She was a special talent and it’s a tragic shame that she has been taken from us too early.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to send our sincere condolences to Emma’s family and friends at this sad time.”

Lynda Shepherd, who discovered Emma’s talent while she was still a student at Manchester College, said she had been very brave throughout her battle.

The 27-year-old, who is currently playing for Manchester City Ladies, said: “Emma was lovely. She was always happy and she had a lot of friends.

“A lot of people spoke very highly of her, especially in the football world.

“People would say you could put her in the boys team and she would not be out of place, she was that good.

“My thoughts go out to her family. It was a pleasure to have known her.

“I was her coach, her team mate and her friend and I will really miss her.”

Emma, who was from Manchester, leaves two young daughters.

A family statement said: “It is with great sadness that Mike, Sandy and husband Stefan wanted to officially notify Blackburn Rovers that Emma passed away in the early hours of Wednesday with loving mother, father, husband, grandparents, closest family and Krystal and Karen by her side.”

Tributes were also paid to Emma on social networking sites.

Sarah Elliott Havoc Hart said on Facebook: “RIP Emma. You are an inspiration to us all.

“You will always live on through your two wonderful girls.”

And Bex Egan said: “We will always remember you gorgeous girl, you are now at rest.

“You did us all proud and we will try and be half as strong as you have been.”

And Mj Ramsay said: “Such a beautiful young girl, who left behind two gorgeous little girls.

“Life's so so cruel, just heartbreaking.”

Emma’s uncle Steve Kennedy will be running the Greater Manchester Marathon in April to raise money for Cancer Research UK in memory of Emma.

To sponsor Steve, visit www.justgiving.com/steve-kennedy1

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