THE family of a famous Wearside sports fan who fell to his death has thanked the community for helping them pull through the tragedy.
George Summerside, 53, died in January after falling from Marsden Grotto but, speaking publicly for the first time since his death, his beloved family and friends said they are determined to keep his memory and passion for sport alive.
The dad-of-two from Roker was well known in the cricket and football supporters fraternities and England cricket stars were among those to pay their respects to the retired firefighter after his death.
Spurred on by George’s popularity, his family yesterday hosted a charity cricket match at Wearmouth Cricket Club in what they hope will become an annual memorial match.
His wife Yvonne, 57, who is mum to Paula and Ashleigh, said: “The turnout today has been absolutely brilliant.
“It just shows how well liked he was. People have come from all over the country.
“George did a lot for charity with the Barmy Army and I think he would be unbelievably proud of what has been done today.”
Representatives of avid England cricket supporters group, the Barmy Army, as well as members of the SMB Sunderland football forum, competed in the match.
Money raised will go towards the Chance to Shine charity which aims to bring the joy of cricket to state schools.
George’s brother Paul Summerside said: “We were overwhelmed by the messages of support after George’s death. People I didn’t even know were coming up to me in the street and shaking my hand.
“The support we had from the community helped us through a tragic time and we wanted to come out of it with a positive attitude.
“Because of the teams playing it combines George’s two great loves of football and cricket.”
After George’s death, England cricket stars Matt Prior and Graeme Swann were among those who took part in a minute’s applause in his honour during the team’s test match with Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
George, known by childhood nickname The Podge, travelled the world following the England team.
He was described as one of the most “vibrant, enthusiastic and dedicated England cricket supporters among our ranks” by fellow members of the Barmy Army.
Speaking about the memorial match, George’s daughter Ashleigh, 28, said: “I think this has been an amazing testament to what a fabulous bloke my dad was.
“I don’t think anyone else could have pulled in this many people. It means a lot to us that he is so well remembered, not that anyone could ever forget my dad.”
As well as a charity collection, the memorial match featured a raffle which included the first SAFC strip to be signed by the club’s new boy Adam Johnson.