LEGENDS from the world of football stood side by side for the funeral of former Bolton Wanderers manager Ian Greaves.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Sam Allardyce, Denis Law, Frank Worthington, Peter Reid and Nobby Stiles were among the congregation as friends, family and former colleagues said goodbye to one of Wanderers’ favourite sons.
The former Busby Babe died at his Ainsworth home, aged 76, on Friday, January 2. He will be remembered as one of the most popular of all Wanderers managers.
The Rev Chris Bracegirdle said it was a testament to the high esteem in which Mr Greaves was held that so many people turned out to pay tribute to the man who brought the glory days back to Bolton in the late 1970s.
More than 200 people packed Christ Church, Heaton, to pay their final respects to the man affectionally known as Greavsie to players and fans.
His son, Jason, told the congregation: “We want to say how much we loved Ian. There are heroes in football and heroes in life. Ian was and always will be our hero.”
His grandson, Paul, said: “Grandad was someone you could look up to but most importantly, for me, he was an inspiration. You would often say it to me and now it is my turn to say it to you, grandad. Full marks, lad.”
Alf Davies, who was Wanderers’ commercial manager when Mr Greaves was manager, said his best pal had left a footprint on Bolton. He said: “I would like to say, on behalf of the town, thanks Greavsie. He was a special man. He was Bolton. I know Peter Reid and Sam Allardyce took a lot from him. They knew the man was special.”
He was the unlikeliest of Bolton heroes, having played against Wanderers for arch-rivals Manchester United in the 1958 FA Cup Final, but when he stepped up from assistant manager to succeed Jimmy Armfield in 1974, he fashioned a promotion-winning team that, after two near-misses, returned to the First Division in 1978.
He was a mentor to Allardyce and Reid. Mr Allardyce, who played for Wanderers while Mr Greaves was manager, paid tribute to his former boss.
He said: “He was the man who gave me the chance to fulfil my childhood dreams. We excelled as a team that was based around not just Greavsie’s football knowledge but his skills as a person and as a manager. He had a fantastic rapport with his players and long after he retired he was always there for advice. He was a special man.”
Frank Worthington, who was part of the team that Mr Greaves led back to the top flight, was at the funeral along along with many other former Wanderers players.
He said: “He was the best manager in English football. He had this aura and character about him and that has brought everyone here today.”