A FORMER footballer who was paralysed in a freak accident while playing has been named the North West's sporting unsung hero after launching a team for players with cerebral palsy.

Sean Bailey, who lives in Sandymoor, had his neck crushed by the weight of an opponent while playing for Newton-le-Willows side Vulcan FC in 2005.

He had a six-hour operation during which he had a metal rod inserted to repair his dislocated neck and damaged spine.

Battling Sean defied the odds to walk again.

Despite his playing days being ended, he focused on coaching and a few years ago set up the Manchester United deaf team.

More recently, Sean has been involved with football for people with cerebral palsy and he launched his own club, Cerebral Palsy United, in Manchester.

The team has enjoyed great success, winning a trophy treble followed by a quadruple the following year.

Among its successes was the FECPP international tournament in which the club competed against national cerebral palsy sides and emerged as the winner in the eight-team tournament.

The side defeated Chile 2-1 in the final in Barcelona to claim the trophy in June.

And Sean, 34, was "very proud" to have been recognised for his work and is looking forward to attending the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in Liverpool, where he is in the running for the national Unsung Hero gong.

"I was just shocked," said Sean, who is married to wife Debra, with whom he has a three-year-old daughter Everly Red.

"It's a bit surreal and I'm very proud to have won it. I don't see what I do a that big a deal, it's very nice but I'm doing it to give people an opportunity.

"Having played football and becoming disabled it gives me quite a unique insight into disabled football and what players want and need."

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards take place on Sunday, December 17 at the Echo Arena, Liverpool.