Popular Billy is laid to rest

BLACKPOOL FC’s promotion-winning team of 1992, including Premiership star Trevor Sinclair, gathered to pay their last respects to former manager Billy Ayre as he was laid to rest yesterday.

There was standing room only in St Cuthbert’s Church at Halsall, near Ormskirk, as the congregation heard how Billy’s love for his football and his family endured to the end.

Billy, who took the Seasiders to two Wembley play-off finals, died last Tuesday after a long battle again cancer, with his wife Elaine and children David and Rachel by his side.

Family friend Reverend Heather Penman, paying tribute to Billy’s life, said he had not wanted his funeral to be a mournful occasion.

She recalled how his family and his football had been the priorities in his life.

And she told how a gesture by Seasiders fans at last year’s division three play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff had meant so much to him in the days before his illness started to take hold.

She said: “As he was walking to the stadium, he was spotted by some supporters – Billy Ayre’s tangerine army.

“They carried him shoulder high into the stadium, and I expect he did that famous fist sign as they took him in.

“And Elaine said Billy was absolutely delighted by that gesture. But from that stage Billy’s health started to deteriorate.”

Blackpool manager Steve McMahon and Seasiders reserve team coach Mike Davies were among those who attended the funeral.

There were floral tributes from Blackpool fans, while some made the trip from the Fylde to say a personal farewell.

Allan Cooper and his 10-year-old son Adam, from Norbreck, were among those.

Allan said: “He was the most popular manager of recent times. We didn’t need any motivation to come down today.”