TRIBUTES have been paid to a North-East journalist who has died, aged 41.

Sunderland Echo digital editor and former football writer, Ian Laws, died suddenly last night.

Mr Laws took over the running of the Sunderland Echo’s website in September 2010, but is best known as a long-serving Sunderland Football Club reporter.

A former Monkwearmouth Comprehensive pupil, he trained in Darlington in 1989 before becoming a journalist a year later.

Mr Laws began his career as a junior reporter at the Scarborough Evening News before moving on to the South Shields Gazette and then the Sunderland Echo, where he initially started in news before moving on to sport.

It is understood he had been out with friends playing football yesterday evening before returning home.

He leaves behind wife Kelly and children Lauren, James and Millie.

Sunderland Echo editor Rob Lawson said: “Ian was one of the most talented journalists I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

“He had a way with words and writing came effortlessly to him.

“Our thoughts and prayers today are with them and his wider family.”

Louise Wanless, media and communications manager at SAFC said: “Ian was a great journalist – principled and with an in-depth knowledge and passion for football and especially of course Sunderland and yet he retained a natural warmth and ability to get along with everyone he met.

Niall Quinn said: “My thoughts are with Ian’s young family at this dreadful time and I was so saddened to hear the news of his passing.

“Ian was a good friend to our club and as a local man on the local patch had a real understanding and feel for the club and what it meant to supporters. He was honest and decent and will be missed by all those who knew him and worked with him.”