A FORMER team-mate has hailed Tony Hopper's superb spirit as he backed his friend's charity mission.

Mark Boyd played alongside Hopper at Workington Reds, but also spent time sharing a house with him in Carlisle.

Like thousands of others, he's been moved by the way the dad-of-three has responded to his devastating diagnosis of motor neurone disease, not by sitting back, but stepping forward to help others.

Hopper and his family have set out to raise £10,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, backed by the News & Star's Fighting Back For Tony campaign.

Boyd, the former Newcastle, Carlisle United and Gretna player who's now part of BBC Radio Cumbria's commentary team, said: “I was at Workington with Tony but I have known Tony a long, long time.

“We lived together for a year when I played at Newcastle. I had a house in Harraby and myself and Tony, we lived together for a year."

On his diagnosis, he added: "You can’t put into words what has happened to him, it is heart-breaking.

“He is a real good friend but he is a real good friend of a lot of people.

“I was out a couple of weeks ago, we went for an Indian. There were about 30 lads there and we were just having a laugh and a joke, and Tony was joining in.

“To see him in those spirits with what he has got, it just shows the character of the man.”

Given Hopper's character - and the regard in which he's held in the football and wider community - Boyd has not been surprised by the outpouring of help to support his cause since going public with the diagnosis.

“I think Carlisle is the sort of city where people have got friends and people have got enemies," Boyd said.

“The one person who you can say has got no enemies and nobody has got a bad word about is Tony Hopper because he is that well-liked and respected.

“It has hit a lot of people hard. People are rallying around for him and raising money.

“It just shows the spirit of people from Carlisle because they are doing all they can to make, however long left Tony has, he wants to make memories and people are trying to help him do that.

“He is from a great family. I know his brothers and his dad really well. I saw his dad last week.

"It is a real hard time but that is a family who are so well thought of and so loved.

“Tony is a fighter and, believe me, he will give it his all for as long as he can. We are all behind him. We all love him and we will always support him as much as we can.”

If you're getting behind the campaign, let us know by emailing jon.colman@cngroup.co.uk

Support the Hoppers by clicking here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Tony-Hopper