Tribute has been paid to a 33-year-old "gentle giant" who died on Christmas Day just days after having an operation to cure a long-standing condition.

Nick Wade, who had played for Wyke Wanderers from a young age, had been suffering from ulcerative colitis for years.

In a poignant last post on his Facebook account on Christmas Day morning he said: "I had the best present ever being able to be at home so I can celebrate it with my family. Never take anything for granted and make sure you have the best day with your families.

"A thought going out to everyone having Christmas without family members and loved ones.

"Also want to say a happy Christmas to all the nurses and surgeons down at Jimmy's that will be working all day saving people's lives and looking after people. They are the real heroes."

Only at the beginning of December did Nick post on Facebook that the condition had got much worse and he would need an operation to have his large bowel removed, apologising to his friends for having to cancel plans in the past or being late because of his difficulties.

The condition had got so bad he was scheduled for surgery and a successful eight-hour procedure was carried out on December 19 at St James's in Leeds.

He left hospital on Christmas Eve but he collapsed and died the next day at the home he shared with his girlfriend of a year Charlotte Thorno and her two young daughters.

Wyke Wanderers cancelled their fixtures on Saturday in respect for Nick and instead held a celebration of his life at Scholes Cricket Club.

Club secretary Dave Ryan said Nick's death was a massive shock and many of his family, friends, team-mates and old work colleagues had paid tribute to him at the event.

He said: "I was a massive shock, on Christmas Day with his family. Everyone has taken it badly.

"It is very tragic. He had gone into hospital for the op which was successful but he collapsed and died.

"We are all shook up about it.

"He was a well-loved man.

"He was looking forward to making plans to get married."

Mr Ryan said the West Yorkshire Association Football League and the Wanderers' opponents agreed to postpone the games on Saturday.

He said: "The teams were very understanding. We got the lads together and we recalled our memories of him with family and friends."

He said Nick was a local lad who went to Wyke Wanderers as a junior at the age of six or seven and rejoined the club last season.

He was utility player who could play in every position and he described him as "a gentle giant".

"He was well-known in footballing, a big strong lad. As a centre-half he was quite dominant," added Mr Ryan.

He also played for West Bowling on Sundays.

In a tweet, the Wanderers said: "Nicholas Wade was a hard working, caring and committed person who took those attributes onto the pitch. A true wanderer.

"Thoughts with his family, friends at this time."

Mr Ryan said Nick used to work for Mittons and also helped out on match days at Bradford City when his dad Keith filmed the games.

In his posts about his illness on Facebook Nick said: "I am not posting this for attention or likes I simply just want to share with my friends the struggles I have been trying to hide for four years now.

"When I cancel last minute plans; let people down; never show up on a night out; hardly drink anymore; arrive late to things; please know that it isn’t because I can’t be arsed or I’m a s**t mate... it’s because I usually have to plan my journey around toilet stops.

"I have tried numerous medications, some so strong they are killing my immune system and it’s still not working. I have been admitted in to hospital for lengthy stays on IV Drips and meds. I have reacted to medications with potentially life threatening side effects. My only option now will be to have my colon removed.

"I have battled the demons that this debilitating disease can cause: the depression, shame, loneliness, desperate panic, embarrassment, pain, and isolation. I don’t want to hide it anymore. With the help of my family who have been so supportive I have decided that I’m going to speak out and get the weight of the stigma off my chest; if it helps one person understand or even relate then it’s worth it.

"Blokes - keep talking. It isn’t sad/pathetic/silly. It’s so important. I’m accepting I’m ill and making friends with the idea. Once I accept it instead of hiding it and pretending I’m fine then I can tackle this next year head on."

In response to the support he had received after his post he said: "Thank you everyone for all your well wishes and support since I let people know when I finally wanted to open up and talk about my condition. Means a lot so thank you."

According to the NHS website ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed.

It is thought to be an autoimmune condition. This means the immune system, the body's defence against infection, goes wrong and attacks healthy tissue.

It's estimated around one in every 420 people living in the UK has ulcerative colitis. This amounts to around 146,000 people. The condition can develop at any age, but is most often diagnosed in people aged from 15 to 25 years old.

Donations can be made to Chrohn’s and Coilitis UK via the football club or Mr Ryan on 07796246335.