A GROUP of keen footballers are taking to the pitch to raise money for a drug rehabilitation charity which helped support their teammate.

John Richards, 39, died last year just a week before his 40th birthday.

He had suffered a lifetime of addiction and mental health issues but died from bronchial pneumonia.

Pals and fellow teammates are now taking to the pitch in his honour on bank holiday Monday at FC Clacton to raise money for drug rehabilitation charity Open Road.

Close friend Darren Lever, 33, who lives in Plough Corner, Little Clacton, said it was important for the John's pals to organise something in his memory and to help those affected by mental health and addiction problems in the area.

“One of the lads from our weekly kick about, which John attended right up until he died, came up with the idea of a football match to get friends and family together to remember John,” said Darren.

“We used to play football every Wednesday at the leisure centre for about six years.

“John was always in goal and football was one of his passions.

“That became a charity event with a few games and a bouncy castle.

“We ended up raising £800 for Open Road Visions in Clacton as they help recovering addicts like John and he was a regular there.

“It went so well that we’re doing it again this year.”

The event will run from 11.30am until 4pm and there will be a host of activities for families including a bouncy castle, pony rides, face painting, treasure hunt, a raffle and appearances from Jump Street trampolines and Hasty’s Farm.

Darren added: “John wasn’t one of those people who was too scared about what people would think.

“He just got on with life, he was a proper nice bloke.

“We just always clicked and got on with him.”

Entry to the May 28 event is free but donations are welcome on the door.