THE family of a lifelong Everton fan who died suddenly from a blood clot have praised the sporting community for their support following his death.

Mark Bowen, 44, from Haresfinch, went to watch his beloved Toffees on Saturday, August 23 in their game against Aston Villa in Birmingham.

Later that night after his dad, Fred Bowen, picked him up from the supporter coach drop off in Rainhill, he suddenly died in the car.

The dad-of-one's death, from an undiagnosed blood clot, shocked not only his family, friends and the community, but also all of his friends and fellow supporters from Everton, Celtic (his second favourite team) and Saints.

Weeks later for his funeral, all those fellow sport supporters, even those from different teams, came together to pay their respects to Mark.

Fred, 71, said: "I've never seen anything like that in my life, it was wonderful to know he was so popular."

The sporting community also raised thousands in Mark's memory to help his 13-year-old son Liam Bowen keep attending the games he loved so much with his dad.

Mark's mum Lynne, 70, said: "Mark had been complaining of a cramp like pain in his leg, but he thought nothing of it really, except that it was making him limp a bit.

"He always went to away games with Han's Tours, which is a supporters club coach company, so after the game he text his dad to pick him up from the drop off point in Rainhill and when Fred went to get him he had blood all over his face.

"He said he'd fell, because of the limp, and then suddenly he just slumped in the car.

"Fred drove him here and we called for an ambulance, but they said it was too late and was flat lined."

Over the following days, the family received more than 200 sympathy cards and visits from neighbours and friends they had not seen in years.

Fred added: "The support we've had since Mark died has been phenomenal. The funeral was incredible, with more than 300 people jammed into the place.

"It's something I've never seen in my life, it was wonderful to know he was so popular.

"Supporters from all the football teams he loved and other supporters who he had made friends with at games came together.

"Mark lived and breathed football, even Liam and his friends played a game of football on the bowling green near The Gerard the night of his funeral, it was very poignant really."

Lynne added: "The supporters group decided they wanted to raise money in his memory to help Liam get to the games and we've had even more since then.

"They must have got in touch with Everton as well because ex player Duncan Ferguson, who Mark loved and met once, came to meet us and pay his respects.

"That meant an awful lot.

"Honestly the support from Everton, Everton in the Community, and other sport teams and the community has been incredible.

"Mark was really well thought of, which is lovely

"We can't thank everyone enough, it means so much."

Everton in the Community also planted a silver birch at the club's training ground Finch Farm in Mark's memory with a plaque.