Tony Hopper, the former Barrow AFC footballer who waged a brave and inspirational fight against motor neurone disease, has died, aged 42.

Tony, a father of three, died in the Eden Valley Hospice in Carlisle, on Tuesday night.

His family issued a statement saying: "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 [Tony’s wife] 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.”

Funeral details will be made available in the coming days.

Tony played the majority of his football career at Carlisle United, spending a decade at the club between 1992-2002. He enjoyed two loan spells at the Bluebirds in 1993 and 2002.

Former team-mates, coaches and fellow players have paid tribute to him.

Tony’s former youth coach at Carlisle, David Wilkes, 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.”

Carlisle United first-team coach Paul Murray, 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 - the same approach he had fighting MND.”

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

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.

Tony also started a fightback fund for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which has so far raised £45,676 for the charity, which will fund vital research and provide support for other MND sufferers.

Eric Tiffin, the MND Association’s north and west Cumbria group leader, said: “What they have raised, in terms of awareness for MND in such a short space of time, is tremendous.”