FOOTBALL legend Kevin Keegan has come to the rescue of children at a special needs school after their minibus was targeted by thieves.
Youngsters and staff at Guidepost’s Cleaswell Hill School were left angry and upset after the bus was vandalised last week.
The bus, donated to the school by the Variety Club in 2008 and handed over by then Newcastle United manager Keegan, was put out of action after having a vital part stolen, causing £1,300 worth of damage.
After the former England player heard about the theft, he and his wife Jean immediately offered to pick up the tab for the repairs, which would otherwise have had to come out of school funds.
The Variety Club has since offered to split the bill.
Bob Gladwin, the club’s regional chairman, said: “It does not surprise me at all that Kevin came forward to offer help because he the most generous person.
“I would have expected nothing less.
“He is conscious of what we do as a charity, which is helping disadvantaged and disabled children. He is very sensitive to that.”
Keegan, a player for the Magpies from 1982 to 1984 and their manager from 1992 to 1997 and again in 2008, said: “We know how important the bus is to the kids, and I remember how delighted they were to receive it back in 2008.
“The Variety Club does a great job, and it’s horrible that people can come along and take away something that has been donated to a good cause like this.”
It is believed the thieves struck between 4pm a week ago on Tuesday and 8am last Thursday while the bus was parked outside the School Avenue building.
“I cannot believe that anybody would do that to a special needs school that looks after disadvantaged children,” added Bob.
“I am absolutely appalled by it. I really am. I just hope that the people who perpetrated this read it in the paper and feel guilty about it.
“They stole an important part of the coach which it cannot run without.
“They absolutely knew what they were doing.
“It amazes me that anyone would even think of doing this to a coach which was donated to the school to help improve the quality of life of the children.”
The school, attended by 92 special needs pupils aged four to 19, relies on the minibus to take youngsters out for sports fixtures and other activities.
Headteacher Kevin Burdis said: “For Kevin to do this is so magnificent. It is a lovely gesture.
“He originally handed us the keys three years ago.
“When he met the kids, he just captivated them, and he made every one of them feel special.
“He has been a proper Santa Claus for the school.”
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery added: “Kevin Keegan and Bob Gladwin have done a marvellous job in reacting the way they know best and giving them the finance to get them back on the road again.
“The message is that we must catch these people and stop them from doing this heinous crime to people who have already got a difficult life ahead of them.
“These people deserve a lot better.
“It is an absolutely outstanding school.”
Police are appealing for anyone with information on the theft to contact them on 03456 043043 ext 69191.
Inspector Karen Murray, of Bedlington’s neighbourhood policing team, said: “It’s pretty cowardly for criminals to target the school, and I’d appeal for anyone with any information as to who is responsible to contact us.”
The school was due to get the bus back up and running on Tuesday in time for a trip to Morpeth for a football match against pupils from another special school.
The school now intends to park up the minibus at a depot in Stakeford each night to keep it safe from thieves and vandals.