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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Fond farewell for legend Charles
Glenda Charles

Family, friends, players and fans have gathered in Swansea to remember John Charles, who is still regarded by many as the best footballer to play for Wales.

During a service that appropriately ran for 90 minutes, speaker after speaker paid tribute not just to his prowess on the field, but his warmth and kindness off it.

Around 1,000 people packed into the Brangwyn Hall to marvel at highlights from his career, which were shown on two large screens.

They joined in prayer, song, and laughter as friends and colleagues recounted tales of a man known to the football world as The Gentle Giant.

If you had 22 players of John's calibre there would be no need for referees, only time keepers
Clive Thomas, former referee

Charles died after a short illness in February and his funeral service was held in his adopted home of Leeds on 1 March - St David's Day.

Monday's service was a chance for people in Wales to say their own goodbyes and for his widow Glenda to return his ashes to the city where he was born.

"I'm happy now that he has come home to Wales," she said.

"He is yours. He is one of your special people. He has come home to his roots, his family and friends.

"I know that you will look after him for me and you will give him a special place to rest."

The service, held in the building where two years earlier Charles was given the freedom of the city, had many local touches.

Youngsters from Mansleton Primary School, where Charles was once a pupil, performed a musical tribute including 'I'm going home to Swansea Town'.

There was also an international flavour reflecting Charles status among football fans in Italy - his former Juventus colleague Umberto Columbo flying to Swansea for the service.

Tributes were led by Welsh assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

Comedian Stan Stennett, a friend of Charles for nearly 50 years, spoke of the star's tireless charity work.

His former World Cup '58 team mate Mel Hopkins remembered his versatility as a player.

"He was the most brilliant of centre halves and the most brilliant of centre forwards," he said.

"God's 11 will be a better side now than the old Juventus side was," he said.

Former Swansea manager and Wales and Liverpool striker John Toshack paid his tribute through poetry.

While former international referee Clive Thomas said he spoke for all officials in the game when he said no one had played it in a better spirit than Charles, who was never booked in his career.

"If you had 22 players of John's calibre there would be no need for referees, only time-keepers," he said.

The service ended with a personal tribute from former England manager Sir Bobby Robson, which was read out by the Lord Mayor of Swansea Laurence Bailey.

"John Charles was without comparison, not only as footballer but as a human being," said the current Newcastle United manager.

"I do not believe this giant of a man had a bad bone in his body."


SEE ALSO:
Football mourns Charles
01 Mar 04  |  Football
St David's Day funeral for Charles
23 Feb 04  |  South West Wales
Wales remembers national hero
21 Feb 04  |  South West Wales
John Charles dies
21 Feb 04  |  Football


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