A FORMER international footballer from Keighley who was a popular and well known figure in the town has died aged 85.

Michael – or Mike – Hellawell made more than 170 appearances for Birmingham City in the 1950s and 60s and played for England, including around the victorious World Cup squad of 1966.

A pacy outside right, he played 213 games for the Midlands club and scored 33 goals between 1957 and 1965.

He was part of the side that reached the final of the old Fairs Cup against Roma in 1961, and that beat local rivals Aston Villa over two legs in the 1963 League Cup final.

Mike, who won two England caps, had begun his career at Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

A QPR spokesperson said: "The club has been saddened to learn of the passing of former player Mike Hellawell at the age of 85.

"Hellawell made his debut for QPR in February 1956 and went on to make a total of 48 appearances, scoring eight goals before joining Birmingham City in 1957.

"The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Mike’s family and friends at this time.

"May he rest in peace."

His career also included spells at Sunderland, Huddersfield and Peterborough.

Mike's sporting prowess extended to cricket, too – he played for Warwickshire, making one first-class appearance against Oxford University in 1962, taking 4-54 and hitting an unbeaten 30 with the bat, and was part of Yorkshire’s second XI.

In late 2020, Mike published his autobiography, The Impossible is Possible – Keep Right On til the End of the Road.

It told the story of how he ended-up ‘living the dream’ and included his childhood, professional career, post-football life, Christian faith and marriage of more than 60 years to Brenda.

At the time of its launch, Mike said: "Over the years many people have asked me to write a book but until now I’ve never got round to it. I hope that my story will inspire others."

He gave talks around the town and just three months ago staged a book signing event in Keighley's Airedale Shopping Centre, donating proceeds to All Nations Church in the town.

Shopping centre manager Steve Seymour had spoken of his pride at hosting the event and "showcasing one of the many good and great people from Keighley who have excelled from lowly roots and shown what can be achieved".