FOOTBALL has always been George Walker’s passion.

The former semi-professional goalkeeper loved playing and coaching the sport until a shock diagnosis turned his life – the lives of his family – upside down.

Now, three of his biggest fans are teaming up to run 13km between Glasgow’s football stadiums in a bid to raise money for MND Scotland.

George with his wife, Samantha.

George with his wife, Samantha.

“Now two years after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, my dad cannot walk and is bed bound and cannot feed or wash himself,” says George’s daughter Georgi.

“When he was diagnosed with MND in 2019 he was still coaching with Dunbeth Football Club, but he soon deteriorated and had to give it up six months after his diagnosis.

“Now, he relies on his family to care for him 24/7.”

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles.

It can cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe unaided.

On the weekend of the Scottish Cup Final - May 22 and 23 - amateur football coaches Sean McLaughlan, 28, James Connell, 33, and Stephen Mather, 34, will be taking part in MND Scotland’s Fun Run Relay.

George and Stephen.

George and Stephen.

The three friends have given their fundraising efforts a football-themed twist in a touching tribute to their former coach.

The big-hearted trio are aiming to run from St Anthony’s Junior Football Club in Cardonald, where George used to coach, to Ibrox, Hampden and Celtic Park, a distance of 13 kilometres.

Additional support needs teacher James, coachbuilder Stephen and communications and office manager,Sean met 15 years ago at Shotstoppers Goalkeeping Academy in Giffnock, where they were coached by George.

Sean says: “I knew a bit about MND because I’ve worked with MND Scotland through my previous job I worked with Christina McKelvie MSP, who is a huge advocate for the cause and the charity.

“However, the other boys weren’t too aware of the disease, the implications and, sadly, the prognosis, which is part of the reason why we’re keen to help.

READ MORE: 'Mum and me and MND' - son's tribute after losing both parents within a year

“We appreciate how much George did for us all through football, and coaching and the impact he made through Shotstoppers.”

Sean adds: “I know the impact MND can have both on the person and on the wider family.

“If there was anything we could do to help further research, support or assistance, both for George and other people living with MND, we were happy to help. We all wanted to do something to show our support for George. “Coincidentally, MND Scotland’s Fun Run is the same weekend as the Scottish Cup Final, so we thought this was the perfect opportunity to raise money, showing the transformative power of football in making a difference to those living with motor neurone disease.”

All the grounds which feature on the run represent some part of George’s football career or support, explains Sean, who says that finishing at Celtic Park was deliberate.

“George is a huge Celtic fan, so we felt finishing the run there would be appropriate,” he says.

“We’re all at different levels of fitness – some much fitter than others – but we’re keen to do what we can for George who has helped us so much over the years.

“We’re hoping to raise as much as possible and, only 24 hours after our JustGiving went live, we have smashed our target of £500.

“We hope sharing this will further awareness and fund research and - eventually – help find a cure for MND.”

George, 61, who played with Collier Row, Lesmahagow and Cambuslang Rangers, also had to give up his job after his diagnosis.

Georgi explains: “His muscles had stopped working to their full capacity which made him unable to carry out his trade - he was a plumber.

“This was all very detrimental to my dad’s mental health as these were two things he loved doing and they were taken away from him so quickly.”

She adds: “His occupational therapist, Laura, and physiotherapist, Iona, have both been great, and have helped my dad every step of the way, with anything he has needed to adapt to his new way of living.”

Iain McWhirter, from MND Scotland, said: “I would like to thank Sean, James and Stephen for joining our Fun Run Relay and for showing support to George and his family.

“Without our amazing fundraisers we wouldn’t be able to continue supporting families like the Walkers, or fund pioneering research which is bringing us closer to a cure.

“We hope even more people will sign up for the MND Scotland Fun Run Relay between May 22 and 23, and join our fightback against MND.”

If you would like to take part, visit the charity’s website and you can donate to Sean, James and Stephen’s Running for George fund through their Just Giving page.