NORTHWICH Victoria and the non-league football community are mourning the loss of former player George Melling.

The 37-year-old died earlier today following a battle with motor neurone disease.

Father-of-three Melling played for Vics during the 2013-14 season but his time at the club was cut short due to a serious Achilles injury.

The ex-defender was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in January 2021 and since then, friends, family and former teammates and managers – including those at Vics – have rallied round to support him and his family.

A hardy group of fans, former teammates and coaches hit the road to cycle between Melling’s former clubs last year to raise funds in support of George and MND.

Northwich Victoria was one stop en route, with Trickies fans Colin Buckley, Jimmy Maddock and Jamie Dewsbury joining the ride at Wincham Park and cycling around 30 miles to Leek Town FC.

A statement from Vics said: "The club are completely devastated to learn that our former player and non-league giant George Melling has tragically passed away.

"We send all our love and strength to George’s family and friends. His legacy for the fight he made against MND will live eternally and help others."

Vics' manager Steve Wilkes signed Melling for his former club Padiham and he expressed his sorrow on Twitter.

He said: "Absolutely devastated to hear the news regarding Big G.

"You were a man mountain on the pitch and even bigger off it.

"You fought so bravely and gallantly my friend.

"Heaven has gained a true gentleman.

"I am honoured and privileged to say we shared a dressing room. RIP George."

Melling's other club's included Leek Town, Kendal Town, Longridge Town, Bamber Bridge, Coppull United, Altrincham, Ashton United, Morecambe, Lancaster City and Nelson.

When Wilkes managed Melling at Padiham he used to live near him in Chorley.

He had watched Melling at two different clubs before taking him to Padiham, where they travelled in together.

β€œHe only played for me for a few games – I think about half a dozen, but I’d known him 10 years by then,” Wilkes previously told Northwich Guardian.

β€œHe was always what I would class as a leader – a big presence in the dressing room and on the pitch as well."

More tributes on social media from the Vics camp and across non-league football: