Sunderland and England fan George ‘The Podge’ Summerside was ‘top of the league’, says fellow supporter

George Summerside (left) with England cricketer Graeme Swann in Bangladesh.
George Summerside (left) with England cricketer Graeme Swann in Bangladesh.
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ENGLAND cricket stars joined fans in a poignant tribute to a much-loved Wearside supporter.

Matt Prior and Graeme Swann were among those who took part in a minute’s applause in honour of George Summerside during the team’s test match with Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Retired firefighter George, who was found dead at Marsden Grotto earlier this month, 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.

At the same time as George was laid to rest at a funeral service in Sunderland, a Barmy Army trumpeter at the Dubia stadium played the Last Post and fans sang Jerusalem and Elvis’s Can’t Help Falling In Love after a minute’s applause in honour of “The Podge”.

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Huw Davies, from the Barmy Army, said: “For any England supporter away from home following their team, George was a go-to man.

“It didn’t matter to George whether he had known you for five seconds or five years, he would always go out of his way to help you.

“He knew everything, from the best bars, restaurants and hotels to a catalogue in his head of who had spare tickets and who was short of a ticket for each and every day of the tour.”

Banners were also displayed in the stadium as a mark of respect to the Roker dad-of-two, who made headlines in the Echo while travelling with the Barmy Army in 2010. His home-made adverts for small businesses on Wearside were seen by millions of TV viewers around the world.

The 53-year-old’s improvised hoardings for Pallion’s Marshall Murray Domestic Appliance Engineers, Lilians Blinds in Southwick, and Roker Tandoori had TV viewers worldwide baffled during coverage of the England-Bangladesh test match in Chittagong.

Pals took George’s England flag to the match in Dubai and put it on display in tribute.

“In our hearts he was, and will always remain, top of the league,” said Mr Davies. “The rest of us are just playing for second place.”

Almost 100 fans also paid tribute to George on the Barmy Army’s online forum.

A fund-raising drive in aid of the Cricket Foundation has been launched in his memory.

The organisation runs the Chance to Shine initiative, which brings competitive cricket and its educational benefits back to state schools, and StreetChance, which uses cricket to engage young people from a range of backgrounds in areas affected by youth crime and anti-social behaviour.

Go to www.justgiving.com/GeorgeThePodge to make a donation to the drive.

Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho