TRIBUTES have been paid to a community stalwart who supported football clubs in his area for more than four decades.

Bob Black, of Evenwood, was a passionate fan of Evenwood Town Football Club and became well known for helping out with everything from fixing stands to painting on the white lines.

Mr Black, a factory worker, was established as the voluntary groundsman and never missed a game or training session if he could help it.

When the club disbanded in the early noughties, he offered his skills to Spennymoor Town Football Club before settling at Bishop Auckland Football Club at their Heritage Park site where his grandson Harry plays for the St Mary's team.

Mr Black met his wife Anne in 1972 and the couple were married in 1974.

They had two children, Michael and Andrea as well as five grandchildren and a happy marriage which often involved trips to the football.

Mr Black retired in August 2016 before being told he had lung cancer in February 2017.

He underwent an operation to remove the cancer and was back to his positive self before being told it had returned about six weeks ago.

"The worst part of him being ill was not being able to go to the football - he was in hospital with a chest infection but was always planning on coming back out," Mrs Black said.

"He was always so positive and did not give in to it."

Mrs Black added: "He was easy going and nothing was a trouble. He would help anybody and would not see anybody troubling anyone."

The couple celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in hospital this year before Mr Black's death.

However, the family say they have been overwhelmed by the support and good wishes from not just family and friends but football supporters from all over the country who encountered Mr Black at games.

Mr Black was previously named Supporter of the Year at the club.

Mrs Black said: "We are just amazed at the amount of support we have had from everyone.

"We have had messages from those in North Shields, Spennymoor and Darlington and lots of away teams have messaged us on Facebook saying what a lovely man he was.

"We also had cards and flowers from the St Mary's team."

A statement on the Bishop Auckland Football Club's Facebook page also paid tribute to their "programme seller, groundsman, steward, odd job man and very good friend to all of us".

A spokesman said: "I have personally known Bob for over 40 years from my Evenwood Town FC playing days where he did everything up there and I enjoyed many an hour with him at football games, at St Marys Juniors - for which his grandson plays - and he liked nothing more than chatting about the ex players, showing me photos, sitting with the players after a match and me sneaking a chocolate roll out to him after half time refreshments."

The club added: "Rest in peace Bob you were, are and always will be a top top man and gentleman to all."

Mr Black, who was also a keen gardener and stamp collector, died on Saturday, April 20, aged 67.