A young football fan left devastated after his bike was stolen was surprised by his heroes as they presented him with a replacement.
Dedicated South Shields FC supporter and volunteer Jak Lewis, 15, was left without his pride and joy when it was taken from outside South Tyneside College on November 8. When they heard about the teenager’s plight, Shields’ players and staff joined forces to buy him a new £350 bike.
They presented it to the St Wilfrid’s RC College pupil ahead of a training session at Mariners Park on Thursday, with Jak’s family invited into the dressing room to watch the special moment.
Jak regularly helps out at the club’s training sessions and even joins in the warm-ups with the players, who have taken him to their hearts.
Striker Carl Finnigan said: “The lads were absolutely gutted when we heard the bike had been stolen.
“Jak is a fantastic lad and has spent a lot of time around the club with things like training and travelling with the team to away games.
“He has helped me out an unbelievable amount with the coaching camps we’ve done and things like that. Everyone was extremely upset and angry for him because he’s a genuine, honest lad.
“There were a few suggestions in the dressing room and as a group of lads, we came together straightaway and decided as a club to get the money together and get him the bike he really wanted.
“He was absolutely chuffed to bits. He’s a tiny little guy but has got a massive personality.”
Jak is also a budding football coach and can be regularly seen at Mariners Park on matchdays and non-matchdays. He was left lost for words after his heroes – who have become his friends over recent months – presented him with his new Trek Marlin 5 mountain bike.
He said: “What they’ve done for me is absolutely brilliant and I’m so happy they’ve done it. I was so upset when the bike was taken as I loved it and didn’t feel the same without it.
“The players and staff have gone out of their way and I really appreciate it. It was a huge surprise. I didn’t know anything about it.
“It has been one big plan and everyone has been dying to tell me. I love the bike.”
Jak’s family, including mum Michelle Lilley, stepdad Gaz Burns and siblings Dan, 21, and Siana, 18, were among those in the dressing room to see the bike handed over.
Mr Burns said: “It was bad for me and Jak’s mam when he lost the bike and must have been horrendous for him, because it was his pride and joy.
“He cherished it and every penny he got, he spent on it. Putting into words what the club has done for him is impossible.
“It’s not only what they’ve done for him with the bike, because they’ve done a hell of a lot more for him as a person. Since he started coming to this club they have taken him by the hand, welcomed him and made him feel so good about himself.
“He’s a completely different lad. It’s testament to the football club, testament to the people that run the football club and testament to everyone that’s within the football club.
“We all love the club and this has just brought us even closer.”