A Newton Aycliffe charity founder has been left overjoyed after a trip to Liverpool saw him take home a bundle of signed merchandise which will be used to raise funds to buy defibrillators.

Mark Preston, 49, from School Aycliffe left the region on May 8 in the early hours of the morning with one objective - but came back with so much more.

Mark, a die-hard Liverpool fan, wanted to thank football manager Jürgen Klopp and assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders for their previous support of the Missed A Beat Foundation.

The Northern Echo: Mark Preston with Jürgen Klopp.Mark Preston with Jürgen Klopp. (Image: MISSED A BEAT)

Mark began the foundation after close friend Darren Scott died following a medical emergency while playing football for Cobblers Hall FC in February 2022.

Since then, Mark has grown the charity and has installed multiple fixed defibrillators across Newton Aycliffe and has also donated about a dozen dual-use defibrillators which can be transported between football teams.

But, after travelling down from Newton Aycliffe at 3.30am with hopes of catching the team, Mark was devastated to find out they had been given the day off in the lead up to their match with Aston Villa.

This didn't stop Mark, who decided to travel to the neighbourhood where he believed Klopp lived and was amazed to receive an invite inside from the seasoned manager's wife, Ulla Sandrock.

The pair sat inside and chatted about Missed A Beat "for a good half an hour" before they were joined by Jürgen who talked to Mark about Liverpool and fond memories of the club.

Mark said: "I didn't think for one second that I would come back with signed shirts. My objective really was to say thank you for what they did.

"It was surreal when those gates opened. As a Liverpool fan, it was so nice to be sat in his company."

Before Mark departed, he was given a bundle of merchandise including shirts, photos, training shops signed by Jürgen - as well as a baby Liverpool kit for his young granddaughter.

Mark added: "He signed absolutely everything that Ulla brought through including shirts I had brought through myself. 

The Northern Echo: Jürgen Klopp signs merch for Missed A Beat.Jürgen Klopp signs merch for Missed A Beat. (Image: MISSED A BEAT)

"I look back on it and I think that someone was looking down on me that day and thinks I am doing the right thing.

"It was just like talking to a friend, they are some of the most genuine people you could ever talk to. It was a crazy day."


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Mark immediately had big plans for the shirts and has already donated some of the merchandise to a handful of Newton Aycliffe junior football teams which can then be sold off to raise funds to buy defibrillators.

Another recipient is The Rolling Mills over 40s team in Darlington, as Mark wants to make sure they are "safe next season and beyond" with a defibrillator.

The charity continues to install defibrillators across the region, with the latest being revealed on Thursday (May 16) in Darlington.