Tony Hopper, the footballer whose brave battle with motor neurone disease touched all of Cumbria, was surrounded by his family as he died at the age of 42.

The hugely popular former Carlisle United and Workington Reds player, a father of three, passed away in Carlisle’s Eden Valley Hospice.

The devastating news of his death, late on Tuesday night, brought tributes from across the county as well as the football world.

His heartbroken family – including wife Sue and sons Daniel, Adam and Jack – spoke of their “overwhelming” gratitude for all the support they have received since Tony was diagnosed with the debilitating condition in January last year.

A statement on their behalf, issued to the News & Star yesterday morning, said: “Tony Hopper has lost his short fight against motor neurone disease.

“He passed away surrounded by his family at Eden Valley Hospice on October 9, 2018.

“Sue and the boys – Daniel, 11, Adam, nine and Jack, five – would like to thank everyone who contributed to the ‘Hoppy Memories’ fund which enabled them to make many happy memories together.

“The support from the whole community has been overwhelming since Tony’s diagnosis in January 2017.”

Tony and his family received huge support from the community after his diagnosis was made public, with donations helping them make lasting memories, including a trip to Disneyland.

He also started an inspirational “fightback fund” for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which raised thousands of pounds for the charity’s north and west Cumbria group to help others affected by the illness.

That led Tony to be honoured with a judges’ special award at The Cumberland News Community Heroes Awards, in tribute to his courage and determination to help others.

Tony’s brave fight against bulbar-onset MND led to some emotional scenes at his former football clubs, including a major charity game at Brunton Park in May last year.

That saw scores of former team-mates return to Carlisle’s ground to support the former midfielder, who took the field with his brothers, Darren and David.

Many of his team-mates, coaches and other ex-players yesterday paid tribute and expressed their sympathies to the Hopper family.

They also recalled Tony as a humble, hard-working and committed player and person.

Tony’s former youth team coach at Carlisle, David Wilkes, fought back tears as he said his heart went out to his family.

He added: “Tony was part of an outstanding group of Cumbrian players who came through at the same time and, when I think back, he was one of those lads who gave everything.

“He was a solid lad, who had loads of heart and endeavour.”

United first-team coach Paul Murray, another player who came through the youth ranks at a similar time to Tony, said: “Whatever Tony was doing, he was always smiling.

“He gave all he had and was the kind of lad who left everything on the pitch – and that was exactly the same approach he had when fighting MND.”

United’s academy coach Darren Edmondson played alongside Tony at Carlisle and Workington and was his manager at the latter.

He said: “Every single word you would use to sum up a decent person would fit Tony – whether for his work, his family, as a person, every superlative you could use about being a top guy would fit Tony Hopper.

“He was the perfect gentleman, the guy everybody liked.

“There won’t be a fan of Workington Reds or Carlisle United that won’t remember him for something he did on a football field that went above and beyond.”

David McCreery, who gave Tony his first-team debut at 16 for Carlisle in 1993 alongside his close friend Rory Delap, described him as a “shining light as a player and person”.

Another Cumbrian former United star, Matt Jansen, said he was a “great person who will be sorely missed”.

Former Blues and Reds goalkeeper and coach Tony Caig tweeted that Tony was “one of the best lads you could have ever met – proud to have been his team mate & room mate and above all else his friend. RIP Hoppy”.

Ex-Blues team-mate Steve Soley added that Tony was “a great, down-to-earth lad, a great credit to his family and credit to his football club and city”.

Current Cumbrian United players, Adam Collin and Danny Grainger, also paid tribute.

Collin, who played alongside Tony for Workington, described him as a “legend”.

Officials and colleagues at Tony’s other clubs, including Workington Reds where he played for a decade, and Barrow, added their own tributes.

Funeral details are expected to be confirmed in the coming days.