FOOTBALL legend Bob Wilson was given a hero’s welcome on Wearside as he neared the end of his epic cycle ride.
The former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper pedalled into the Stadium of Light as part of his 500-mile fund-raiser, visiting every Premier League football club in England, as well as three Scottish grounds.
The pensioner, who will turn 70 this year, said he hoped to raise £250,000 for the Willow Foundation.
The charity was set up in memory of his daughter Anna, 31, who died from a rare type of cancer in 1998.
Bob, who trained for five months in preparation for the ride, was met by representatives of Sunderland AFC when he arrived in the city.
“I’ve run a half marathon before, but nothing like this,” said Bob. “I feel like a footballer again, suffering with big-match nerves.
“But I have to keep myself together.
“What we’re trying to achieve is too important for that.”
He completed his 12-day journey at Hampden Park, in Glasgow.
Founded in 1999, the Willow Foundation has provided more than 7,500 “special days” for seriously ill 16 to 40-year-olds, giving them a break from the stresses of dealing with their conditions.
“More than 20,000 people in that age bracket are diagnosed with a serious illness every year and what we want to do is provide as many of them as possible with a reason to smile,” said Bob.
“Throughout her fight against cancer, Anna said the illness would destroy her, but told us to make sure it didn’t destroy us.
“The charity is our legacy to her.”
However, the outings, which are tailored to the requests of patients and range from theatre trips to countryside walks, cost up to £3million a year.
“Anna was extraordinary and I know she’d be proud of how much good has come out of our own personal tragedy,” added Bob.
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/BobWilsonSoccerCycle or text ‘WILLOW’ to 70050 to donate £1.50.