Albion bid farewell to Cyrille

ALBION bade farewell to one of the Club's all-time greats on a day of high emotion and moving scenes at The Hawthorns.

Family, fans, former team-mates and the wider world of Cyrille Regis gathered at the stadium from the crack of dawn to share their love and memories of the centre forward who was eponymous with both thrilling football and the defeat of bigotry.

Regis died suddenly and shockingly early at the age of 59 on January 14, news which brought the game to a standstill and shrouded the Club where he made his name in deep gloom.

By the time his funeral cortege arrived at The Hawthorns for one final journey from the stadium he considered home, the East Stand was thronging with Albion fans - and supporters from his other West Midlands clubs - who gave the procession a moving ovation.

Cyrille's private family funeral service was then conducted away from the stadium before his widow Julia, and Cyrille's children Michelle and Robert, led family and friends back for a celebration of one of English football's most important figures.

From the opening strains of "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables, sung by Chris Love, to Julia's heartfelt eulogy, more than 4,000 savoured the tributes, songs and stories of the man who enjoyed universal love and admiration and whose memory even here triggered spontaneous chants of "Nice One Cyrille" and "One Cyrille Regis."

There were moving personal tributes from his old 'comrade in arms' Brendon Batson who just about kept his emotions in check as he spoke of Regis the team mate and great friend.

"Cyrille was a wonderful footballer but it did not define him," he said. "He was so much more than that. We are blessed to have known him. Nice one Cyrille, nice one son."

His 1987 FA Cup winning Coventry City manager John Sillett brought the galleries to their feet by a typically rousing addition while Jonathon Barnett, chairman of Stellar Group, spoke of Cyrille's importance in his work as a guiding mentor to young players.

He recalled: "We had a young client on the fringes of the game, struggling at home, making mistakes, beset with demons.

"There was only one man for the job, and in Cyrille went. A decade later that client is a Premier League star who owes everything to Cyrille."

Albion Supporters' Club chairman John Homer and Graham Daniels of Christians in Sport added their tributes before the family stepped forward for the challenging task of celebrating father, brother and uncle while reigning in their emotions.

None were more moving than the words of his daughter Michelle, who steeled herself to follow Cyrille's brother Dave and nephew Jason Roberts.

"A legend, a gentleman, the Three Degrees - the many different names you had," she said of her father. "But I couldn't be more proud to call you my Dad. Your strength made me feel protected. How are we meant to live without you now, I don't know...."

Her brother Robert added: "As kids, me and my sister found it hard to share him with the world. It wasn't until we were older we realised how special he was to everyone and not just to us. It became our honour to share him with the world."

In her eulogy, Julia captured the special qualities which made her husband such a memorable figure in the story of our Club and beyond.

"Cyrille treated everyone like they were the most important person he had met," she said. "He had the unique ability of making people feel so special.

"Regardless of who they were he made time for everyone including his many fans, many of whom are kind enough to be with us today."

Music was provided by multi award-winning singer Beverley Knight and a specially-formed choir which joined Carl McGregor and his Band. Bishop David Carr and Pastor Jonny Lee provided the Address with the service devised and structured - according to specific requests left by Cyrille - by one of his closest friends and fellow MBE Karl George.

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