Tributes have been paid to a life-long Manchester United fan who has died aged 56 after a long struggle with mental health issues.
Sean Bray, who grew up and lived in Leicester, started supporting the Red Devils despite their year in the old Second Division in the mid-70s. His dad, David, would take him to Filbert Street, Leicester City’s old ground, whenever United were in town.
Sean regularly made the two-hour journey with friends to Old Trafford in the 80s and learned to drive himself in 1991 meaning he could follow the reds himself across Europe. In 1996 Sean became a dad himself to his only son, Ryan.
READMORE:Former Manchester United manager Frank O’Farrell dies aged 94
Ryan, now 25, told the Manchester Evening News that Sean originally wanted to call him after his footballing icon, Eric Cantona, but his wife at the time did not allow it. However, Sean was determined to name his son after a United plater and listed them off one-by-one before landing on Ryan, after winger Ryan Giggs.
Ryan said: “When I was growing up he persisted in getting me to support the team he loved and my first game at Old Trafford was against Middlesbrough. The game ended 0-0 and he promised to take me to a more exciting game next time .
“The next year he tried to get us tickets to watch Roma but couldn’t get hold of any. He said to me to not worry as it ‘wouldn’t be that exciting anyway’.
“United ended up winning 7-1. He continued to get tickets for us and it became a shared passion of ours.”
Sean passed away suddenly on February 5 after a long battle with mental health leaving behind his parents and Ryan. His funeral for him was held on February 24, with Sean’s dedication to United a key theme of the service.
Ryan added: “For his funeral, he wore a Georgie Best Spirit in the Sky t-shirt. We themed it for everyone to wear something red.
“I carried him in and read a poem. His walk-in song was “This is the One” by the Stone Roses, which is the song Manchester United walk out to.”
Ryan pays tribute to his dad in the poem read at the funeral, saying: “The first team I saw us two, was Middlesbrough 2006. Not winning didn’t matter, because I was there with you.
“And then we went again, football became our thing. You named me after Giggsy, who’d be running down the wing.
“Into this world that you’ve left, you’ve made an impression on me. Not all of it was for the best, but from all of that – you have taught me a lot.
“I hope you’re at peace, now you don’t feel hurt or sad. And through all the good and bad, you will still always be my dad.”
Ryan is raising money for Leicestershire Cares, an initiative which addresses isolation, depression, and mental health, for young people. The initial target for this was £100, but the JustGiving page has so far raised £473 for the charity in memory of Sean.
Ryan is also hoping to be able to scatter his dad’s ashes at Old Trafford saying it’s the ‘last thing I can do for him’. He is currently reaching out to the club to see if this can be arranged.
To donate to the JustGiving fund, visit here.