Katie Sheppard - 1994-2014

West Ham United Ladies player and lifelong Hammers supporter Katie Sheppard has passed away at the age of 20.

A talented and popular member of the club, Katie joined the Ladies as a teenager from Charlton Women's Centre of Excellence.

A midfielder who named Scott Parker and Jack Collison as her favourite players, Katie initially represented West Ham's U19 side before making her first-team debut as a substitute in an FA Women's Premier League Cup tie with Colchester United in November 2012. She went on to make four appearances in 2012/13 before concentrating on her university studies last season.

Prior to joining West Ham, Sidcup-born Katie also represented Bexley and Greenwich at the London Youth Games and played junior football in the United States for Massachusetts Premier League outfit MPS Lady Crusaders and Australia for Melbourne Fusion. She also studied for a BTEC in Sports Science at Christ the King College in Sidcup.

As a club, West Ham United Ladies paid tribute collectively to Katie on their website.

"It is with great sadness they we have to report the untimely passing of Katie Sheppard. She had played for the Ladies team for the past two seasons, a true Hammers fan and season ticket holder at Upton Park. We send our condolences to all her family and friends at this sad time."

Director of Football Julia Setford, who was the manager who gave Katie her first-team debut in 2012, said everyone connected with the club had been left shocked and saddened by Sheppard's passing.

"Katie was an absolute West Ham fanatic, she had a Season Ticket and it was her absolute ambition to play for West Ham Ladies," said Setford. "When she was at training, she was the bubliest person and just fantastic to have around the club.

"She joined us when she was 17 and played for the club for two seasons. Katie was a central midfielder and she made a couple of first-team appeatrances under me before she went off to university.

"Katie was a fantastic person and a lovely kid. It is such sad news for us all. The club will certainly be a lesser place without her."

Setford said the Ladies had spoken to Charlton Women to ensure a fitting tribute is paid to Katie when the two clubs meet in the FA Women's Premier League Southern Division later this year.

Tributes have also poured in for Sheppard on social media, with her team-mates, friends and supporters all expressing their sadness at her passing.

Everyone at West Ham United would like to pass on their sincere condolences to everybody who knew Katie at this sad time.