Staff from Bolton Wanderers football club were in West Cumbria yesterday to kickstart a charity bike ride in honour of former player Stephen Darby, who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Manager Phil Parkinson, assistant boss Steve Parkin and friends have formed a 10-man team to tackle the 136-mile Coast to Coast challenge over three days and the riders set off from Workington yesterday morning bound for Tynemouth.

The aim is to raise money for The Stephen Darby Foundation, which is being set up by the former Liverpool defender after he was diagnosed with MND and forced to retire from football in September.

The club has also endured a tough time in recent weeks – entering administration on Monday after suffering relegation from the Championship this season – but Parkin was in good spirits as the riders set off on their gruelling journey.

He said: “I’m looking forward to it, all the lads are.

“There are two or three who really enjoy cycling and the rest have stepped up.

“I’ve done it before but that was nearly 20 years ago, although I’ve done a lot more training this time.

“We’ve gone through £20,000 raised today which is a massive effort considering we only starting fundraising in March.

“Stephen is a dear friend and colleague and the key thing is the money will be spent to help.”

Donations have poured in from football fans and players including former Carlisle United striker Gary Madine.

Darby came through the ranks at Liverpool and played under Parkinson and Parkin at Bradford and Bolton.

He said: “It means the world to me what they’re doing.

“I’ve known Steve Parkin for six or seven years and we worked together but we’re friends as well, same with the gaffer.

“Steve and his mates said they wanted to raise money and it’s absolutely unbelievable the amount they’ve got already.

“The foundation will raise awareness and also put money towards research and support for individuals and families who need it.”

To sponsor the team, go to