FANS flocked to Valley Parade to pay tribute to Stephen Darby in Sunday afternoon's emotional friendly against European Champions Liverpool at Valley Parade.

The game, which Liverpool won 3-1, was organised to help raise money for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, which the former City full-back has set up alongside close friend, and fellow Motor Neurone Disease sufferer, Chris Rimmer.

On top of the gate receipts, the Darby Rimmer MND foundation and the Motor Neurone Foundation were swelled by a further £40,000 from Liverpool midfielder James Milner’s own charity.

A sizeable six-figure sum will have been raised from the event when the final total is totted up later this week.

It was a fitting reward for a City legend and his charity, with fans queuing up before and after the game to share their memories and reflect on a special occasion.

Speaking at Ye Olde Crown before kick-off, Russ Cottrell said: “He’s a legend and one of our history makers.

“I’ve met him a few times at Player of the Year awards and he’s an amazing fella.

“It (the disease) just happens to the wrong people.

“It’s going to be a special occasion today but a sad one. If you don’t shed a tear when Darbs walks out there’s something wrong with you."

However, he added: “It was one of our worst seasons in years last year but news of this game has everyone smiling again.

“I’ve been down to the ground a couple of times recently and the atmosphere has been amazing.”

Ahead of the clash with Liverpool, Martin Cook said: “It’s not about seeing new players today, it’s about Stephen Darby.

“He was so passionate and committed for the club.

“I’d love the two teams to do this every summer to raise money for his charity.”

At the Drum Winder, Howard Bedford said: “He was a great captain and although he only got the one goal, against Burton Albion, it was a special moment for the club in our League Cup run.

“There’s 25,000 coming today, it’s sold out, and we can show our appreciation for a good cause.”

Singing Stephen’s praises on North Parade, Graham Rollinson said: “He’s a special guy.

“He was good for getting back and goal line clearances and just being a great professional footballer. I’ll always remember him partying on the bus after the Chelsea game too.

“I hope they do raise a lot of money for him today. I’ve heard he’s doing a team talk too which is brilliant.

“I just want to wish good luck to him and his friend Chris Rimmer, in their fight.”

Fans were keen reflect on what they had witnessed after the match too.

Jackie Whyatt was at the game with her two grown up children, Jonathan and Katie.

She said: “There was a massive crowd and it was really emotional at times.

“I kept filling up during the speeches before the game and while the 'Stephen Darby Baby' chants were happening.”

Nicole Smith added: “The fans were brilliant, especially the way they got behind Stephen when he broke down during his speech before the game.”

Meanwhile, Diane Fairfax said: “It was great to see Liverpool step up and respond to the cause and it would be great to maybe see other big teams come to Valley Parade in pre-season to raise money for Stephen’s charity.”

In terms of City's team, their two new strikers were the ones attracting the most attention ahead of kick off.

Sixteen-year-old Marcus Wardell, speaking at Sunbridge Wells, said: “I’m looking forward to seeing James Vaughan playing alongside Clayton Donaldson.

“I don’t think we’ve had strikers as good as them since Nakhi Wells.”

Meanwhile, at the Record Cafe, Andy Braithwaite said: “Any combo up front (like Vaughan and Donaldson) would be good as we’ve had a lone striker for so long.”

After the game though, it was a couple of other faces which had caught the eye.

Jackie Whyatt said: “I thought the team gave a good account of themselves.

"It was nice to see Sean Scannell back and I think he and Jordan Gibson could be important for us this season.”

Diane Fairfax added: “I thought we did alright and my tip for the future is Tyler French. I thought he played well in defence.”

There was a lot of positivity in general about the club's chances this season too.

In the Drum Winder before kick-off, Anthony Ryan said: “We’ve got to look for promotion this season and we’ve strengthened in all areas.

“Gary Bowyer has brought real morale to the team as well.”

Meanwhile, Andy Braithwaite said: “I think the pre-season stuff on Twitter is a lot more positive than previously and it’ll be interesting to see if that team spirit that’s been mentioned a lot is there.”

After the game, Yasser Mohammed had an extremely positive outlook, saying: “We won the second half 1-0. And don’t forget about the fact that we kept a clean sheet too.”

Nicole Smith added: “It will be fantastic if City can play like that next season. It was a good game and the players did City proud.”

With 24,343 fans turning up, it was City's biggest crowd since Valley Parade re-opened in 1986 following the tragic fire the previous year.

The atmosphere and occasion were not lost on those attending, with Marcus Wardell, speaking about Darby, saying: “He was a great leader and captain and an ever present at Wembley for those three finals. A true legend.

“To have a full house for him today will be amazing.”

Before kick-off, Russ Cottrell laughed: “Today will be the first time my boy Teddy has seen Valley Parade full.”

After the game, speaking alongside his two children, Zaheer Ahmed said: “We’ve loved it and it was great for the kids to be able to see Liverpool.

”It was a great atmosphere today and it was brilliant to be able to generate so much money for the foundation.”

Finally, Zakir Mohammed felt the day was one to reflect on, and he said: “It was about more than football today and it puts things into perspective.

”It was nice to see Valley Parade full today and hopefully it’s a sign that the good times are coming back.”

* Check out some of these pictures in print in our eight-page Darby Day souvenir pullout in Tuesday's T&A