A Huddersfield Town fan who cheated death when his best friend died has got on his bike for charity.
Neville Payne, 50, rode into the John Smith’s Stadium last night to end the first day of a marathon ride around Yorkshire.
He and 10 friends plan to cycle to every Premiership and Football League ground in Yorkshire over four days to raise cash for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
They have set an ambitious target of £10,000.
And Mr Payne, who was brought up in Huddersfield, has every reason to help the charity. He was flown to hospital by air ambulance after being rescued from a freezing river where his pal drowned.
He spent days in hospital recovering from hypothermia after the tragedy in January 2012 on the River Trent.
He and his friend, Ian Steel, were fishing for pike when their boat capsized, flinging them into the water which was -7C.
Mr Steel, 57, of Pocklington, Yorkshire, was pulled from the river by rescuers but later died in hospital.
The boat was sucked into the weir by strong underwater currents, and flipped over by the force of the water.
Mr Payne was spotted in the water but was there for 20 minutes before he was saved by specially- trained swimmers and flown to hospital.
Mr Payne, who now lives in Pocklington, near York, said: “I was so grateful to the rescuers and to the air ambulance crew.
“I have supported Huddersfield Town for as long as I can remember and I’m delighted to be backing the club’s Keep it Up campaign which supports the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
“I decided on a cycle ride and set off on Tuesday, which was my 50th birthday. I had planned to do it alone but was then joined by several friends, and we plan to visit all 12 grounds in four days, covering 220 miles.
“We will be calling at each club on the way and receiving gifts and memorabilia that we can auction at a later date for the charity.
“People who know me are aware that I’m not a cyclist and that could also be said for most of the group, so this is a real challenge for all.
“We know that everyone is under huge financial pressure these days and we all get nagged to give to various causes, but please help us all in achieving our goal of £10,000. You never know when you may need them yourself.”
To support Mr Payne log on to: justgiving.com/keepemflying