IT is only a game.

Football brought George Moncur and Dylan Tombides together and now the Englishman will carry the memory of his tragic friend with him for the rest of his career, and his life.

Fans across the country were left shocked last week when West Ham announced the death of youth star Tombides, the Australian losing his battle with testicular cancer just days after his 20th birthday.

The Hammers paid tribute to the forward before Saturday's Premiership fixture at home to Crystal Palace and have retired his No.38 shirt, a gesture that has only ever been done once before at the Boleyn Ground, for the late, great Bobby Moore.

Moncur, who moved to Partick Thistle on loan in January, was not at Upton Park to witness the emotional ceremony, but has his own commemoration to his friend's passing after having 'Dylan Tombides 1994-2014' tattooed on his arm.

"Dylan was my best mate in the whole world," Moncur said.

"We were so close and when his brother Taylor text me to say he'd passed away last week I just burst into tears immediately.

"I couldn't believe what had happened and that someone could be taken from us so young.

"He meant so much to me that I decided to get a tattoo in his memory so it's almost like we'll be together forever.

"The decision to get a tattoo was instinctive. I just phoned around a few tattoo parlors and luckily I found one that had availability that day.

"When you get a tattoo then it's going to be there forever and when I play now Dylan will always be in my mind and it will be like I'm playing for my mate. I know he'll be watching me from above."

When Tombides was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, he was already an Australia youth international and was being tipped for a bright future in the game.

After returning to training following a spell of treatment, he would make his United debut just a few months later but the Irons faithful will never get the chance to see the striker fulfill his potential.

His death has hit Moncur hard and the midfielder, the son of former Hammers hero John, admits the loss of his friend has put his life, especially on the field, in perspective.

He said: "It's such a sad story and it was a fitting tribute to him at Upton Park on Saturday. I would obviously have like to have been there to see it, but we had a game so I caught it on Match of the Day later that night. I was close to Dylan's family as well so it was hard to see his dad Jim and brother carry his shirt into the middle of the park but it was very moving and he was deserving of a tribute like that.

"Fotball is a massive part of your life when you're involved in it but when something like that happens it becomes insignificant because it's devastating for everyone who is close to him and I think even people who didn't know him were touched by the story.

"For someone to die at a young age like that is terrible for anyone. I the grand scheme of things football doesn't really matter. Sam Allardyce said exactly that after West Ham lost against Crystal Palace on Saturday."

After clinching his loan switch to the Jags in January, it was Tombides who was first to wish his friend well but now Moncur will have to return to London next week to say his final goodbyes.

Moncur's faith has helped him through the pain and he is determined to play a part for Alan Archibald's side in the closing weeks of the campaign to end a testing time on a positive note.

He said: "I'm loving my time at Partick Thistle because the club have been great with me.

"It's a learning experience for me despite not playing many games and I'd love to help them stay in the Premiership which would be great for the club and for my mate Dylan.

"Everything I do on the field now is for him - I know he's watching me."