Team mates have spoken of their shock following the sudden death of former footballer Gary Pearson at just 45 from a suspected heart attack.
The former Darlington FC player was looking forward to starting his new role as the manager of Billingham Town FC, and was well known throughout the North East having played for and managed a number of clubs.
Club chairman Kevin Close said that everyone at the Teesside club was grieving following the news that Gary had died at home on Thursday.
He said: "He was so fit and healthy, we are just in shock. A couple of weeks ago he had a heart attack while on the pitch and was taken to James Cook Hospital. They put a stent in and he was expected to make a full recovery."He was at home, relaxing like he was told to do, for a few weeks. He said he was feeling unwell and collapsed in the house."Kevin said the ambulance crew arrived within a few minutes, but despite their best efforts Gary passed away.
He added: "We are all just devastated. He was one of the best blokes."Gary, who hailed from Seaham, was only appointed to Billingham Town FC at the end of May and Kevin said both of them were really excited for the future of the club.
He said: "I wanted a brilliant manager for Billingham and I got one."He had a great vision. He was so enthusiastic and got the very best out of his players. He was one of the lads."He would have been the best manager that Billingham Town ever had, it's just, unfortunately, we won't get to see him manage a game."Before joining Billingham, Gary had spent a a long time at Ryhope Colliery Welfare FC, the club said: "It is with most heart felt sadness and devastation to announce that former player and manager, Gary 'Gaz' Pearson has sadly passed away.
"From all associated at Ryhope CW, we pass our condolences to all the friends and family. RIP Gaz."After being in the youth ranks at Sheffield United in the 1990s, Gary played most of his football in non-league for the likes of Gateshead, Spennymoor United, Whitby and Durham City before getting a move into the Football League with Darlington in 2001.