'The North East has lost a friend': Sir John Hall leads tributes to professional coach Steve Black

Sir John Hall has led the tributes from the sporting world to North East professional fitness coach Steve Black, who has died at the age of 64.

The 88-year-old former chairman of Newcastle United said Black's unique approach to coaching was "ahead of his time". Sir John claims the North East has lost a "very, very good friend".

Memories from several former England Rugby Union and football internationals have been posted on social media following the death of the well-known coach.

Black served on the Newcastle Falcons' coaching team twice - in a variety of positions - as well as taking roles with the likes of Wales, the British and Irish Lions, Newcastle United and Sunderland. Black worked under Kevin Keegan during Newcastle's successful spell in the 1990s.

Newcastle Falcons praised the "jovial Geordie" saying he "was the spiritual heartbeat of the Falcons from the very early days of professionalism, helping steer Newcastle to promotion and then the Premiership title at the first attempt."

A renowned mentor and motivator, Black is best known to many for his close relationship with England great Jonny Wilkinson.

Wilkinson previously described Black as "the best at what he does" and the Falcons added on Sunday: "All at Newcastle Falcons are deeply saddened to learn of the death of our friend and former colleague, Steve Black.

"Blackie, as he was universally known, spent two spells on the club's coaching staff - but he was so much more than that. Blackie was a friend to all of us - a proud Geordie who understood the value of people, and how to inspire them. Our deepest condolences go out to Blackie's family, and his many, many friends. You will never be forgotten."

The Falcons held a moment's silence ahead of their 15-14 defeat to Exeter in the Gallagher Premiership in honour of Black.

Tributes were paid to former Newcastle Falcons coach Steve Black ahead of the Gallagher Premiership match at Kingston Park. Credit: PA

On Sunday, "Blackie" trended on Twitter after the announcement of his death.

Former England captain Alan Shearer said: "Awful news. RIP Blackie", while ex-Sunderland and Newcastle striker Michael Bridges mourned the passing of a coach who he felt had time for everyone.

Former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio wrote: "Devastatingly sad news. He made every interaction he had with anyone a positive one and there are not too many of us that can say that! Blackie made you believe that anything and everything is attainable and possible. RIP Blackie."

Former England and British and Irish Lions player Tony Underwood said: "Blackie, you're forever in my heart. Thank you for everything."

Bath and England fly-half Danny Cipriani simply described Black as "the greatest".

Ex-England and Newcastle playmaker Rob Andrew, who was the club's Director of Rugby when Black was on the staff, wrote on Twitter: "Shocked and heartbroken... legend in sport is overused but he is one ..to us all he made us all better..gentle funny man but a winner..honour to have worked with you."

In a lengthy post on Instagram, Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton, formerly a player at Newcastle, referred to Black as "one in a billion", adding: "I'm honoured to say he was my friend."

Steve Black Credit: PA

Black also worked with Cleveland Police officers.

The force said: "We're saddened to hear of the loss of Steve Black. Steve provided wonderful energy and support to many of our officers and staff as part of our recent leadership and coaching work and he was a mentor to many. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues."