Laura's gift to team

A WHITE minibus named Matt's Bus has been given to Sidmouth Town Football Club in memory of footballer Matthew Stiling, writes Di Bowerman.

A WHITE minibus named Matt's Bus has been given to Sidmouth Town Football Club in memory of footballer Matthew Stiling, writes Di Bowerman.Mr Stiling died aged 33, in July 2005, after being attacked with a Samurai sword. Now Laura Southcott, his girlfriend of 12 years, has bought the 17-seater bus as a personal memorial so players can again travel together to and from matches as they did when Matt was a player.The team's own bus was vandalised beyond repair in August 2006, when it was parked at the Manstone Lane club. Laura, 33, who had known Matt from the age of 12 when they were both Sidmouth College pupils, bought the nine-year-old bus with money received through a criminal injuries compensation award made to her after Matt's killing.She said: "It was more for Matt than anything else. To receive money for someone's death I found difficult. "I felt I hadn't done anything personally in his memory."She had the bus, which was collected from Wales by the club's general secretary Geoff West, personalised by sign writer John Matthews of Sign Vision, who painted Matt's Bus on the front and Sidmouth Town AFC and its Viking emblem on the side."I wanted it ready for Christmas, then hoped it would be ready for Matt's birthday [January 7]," said Miss Southcott, who said Mr Stiling's parents "were over the moon" about the bus."Football was what Matt's weekends were about. I can't do anything for Matt now but I can do something for the people he played football with and shared his passion for football with. "It seemed the most fitting thing to do and I'd like to thank Geoff for helping me."Mr Stiling's brother Simon still plays for the club and was, until recently, its manager. He will be among those seeing the bus for the first time this weekend.Club chairman Colin Ralls said: "It is a great gift, it means the players can travel together and bond a lot better and it will do the club the world of good."I give our sincere thanks to Laura. It was quite a surprise."Miss Southcott added: "I have achieved what I set out to do. I hope Matt is grinning about this. He was probably the most laid-back, happy-go-lucky person you would meet."l Money from the Matt Stiling Memorial Fund has provided an insurance fund for Sidmouth players not earning through injuries sustained from playing.

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