Friends cycle from Scotland to Sunderland in honour of Black Cats fan left paralysed

The team gets ready to set off from Airdrie's Bayview Stadium
The team gets ready to set off from Airdrie's Bayview Stadium

A group of saddle-sore mates clocked up the miles to raise funds for a lifelong Sunderland fan left paralysed in an horrific holiday accident.

Bruce Ford twice had to be resuscitated after he was injured on a lads’ weekend in Albufeira in Portugal last year to celebrate his 49th birthday.

He had to spend months undergoing rehabilitation in hospital.

Now Bruce, who is originally from South Shields, is back with fiancee Louise Nicholls and the couple are faced with the cost of adapting their home to make it more accessible.

A group of Bruce’s friends - many of whom were on the Albufeira trip - completed a sponsored bike ride from the couple’s home town of Airdrie in Scotland to the Stadium of Light before Sunderland’s home game with Bournemouth on Saturday.

The team set off from Airdrie’s Bayview Stadium on Friday night and took 16 hours to complete their trek.

Bruce Ford with some of the team

Bruce Ford with some of the team

They and Bruce were guests of the club in the Black Cats Bar, where they met former players including Kevin Ball and Jimmy Montgomery.

Organiser Antony Boot was delighted with how the ride went - even though it turned out to be 10 miles longer than the 160 they had calculated.

“What’s 10 miles between friends?” he joked.

“It was truly an amazing experience - epic is a word easily used but for this challenge I think it’s fitting.

Bruce Ford with SAFC legends Kevin Ball and Jimmy Montgomery, along with family and friends at the Stadium of Light

Bruce Ford with SAFC legends Kevin Ball and Jimmy Montgomery, along with family and friends at the Stadium of Light

“The night-time ride was a surreal experience in some ways. It was very cold, and we had eight hours riding in the dark, with two breaks for food and drinks - and the odd ‘relief’ stop.

“It was very dark, with no street lights in lots of places, especially through the Scottish countryside. It was all very quiet around us and we were fairly silent as a group.

“The sun came up around 5.30am and that was a big encouragement. The last 15 miles or so were hard, with our route into Sunderland, but we survived - and did 10 more miles than expected for good measure.

“Seeing Bruce at the Stadium of Light made it all worth it - as did the beer to celebrate. Special mention should go to our two drivers, Stuart Jenkinson and Mike Roby, who shared probably 24 hours plus of driving.”

Loading the bikes onto the support vehicle

Loading the bikes onto the support vehicle

The proceeds from the ride will be split between Bruce and Louise, to help them with the alterations they will need to make to their home, and Glasgow Spinal Unit where Bruce spent months after being flown home.

“We’ve now hit over £7,300 against our £10,000 target,” Antony added.

To donate, click here.

Bruce Ford in hospital

Bruce Ford in hospital

Bruce Ford with fiancee Louise Nicholls

Bruce Ford with fiancee Louise Nicholls