FOOTBALLERS from around the North-East will gather today to pay tribute to a popular player who died after a road crash.

Edward Sharp lost his fight for life in Newcastle General Hospital a week after his car was involved in an accident near his home, in Newfield, near Willington, County Durham.

His family, including his parents, Janice and Edward, and his fiancee, Kelly Fox, had kept a constant vigil by his bedside.

At his funeral today, at St Andrew's Church, Bishop Auckland, they will be joined by friends from the footballing world. Other mourners will include people who worked with Edward and his father on major building projects around the country, including the new Bishop Auckland General Hospital.

On the night of the tragedy Edward, who worked as a dry liner, had been driving home from his job helping to restore the Baltic Flour Mills, on the banks of the River Tyne.

He played for both Tow Law and Consett this season and on Saturday both teams started their matches by standing for a minute's silence.

At his former club, Byers Green St Peter's, Edward was voted the Crook and District League's player of the year.

His Uncle Bob, the Byers Green manager, cancelled last weekend's fixture and will start next Saturday's game with a tribute.

Edward also played in the Wear Valley Sunday morning league and had already scored 27 goals this season for Tindale Crescent Workmen's Club, where his father is assistant manager.

Mr Sharp said: "He loved life and he was really starting to work hard at his football."

Mr and Mrs Sharp and their daughters, Annmarie, Paula, Stacey and Jenna, have paid tribute to the dedication of hospital staff who fought to save Edward's life.

The funeral service is at 11.30am, followed by interment at Witton Park.

Police are investigating the cause of the accident, which closed the Willington to Binchester road for an hour.

They are also trying to find witnesses who stopped at the scene of the accident, which happened just before 6pm on Thursday, February 7.

The male driver of a red Vauxhall Astra or similar car, could have been travelling with a female companion towards Binchester in the same direction of Edward's Peugeot 306.

Officers have asked the driver, who was not involved in the accident but may have seen what happened, to contact them on 0191-386-4929.