Former Newcastle team mates and fans pay emotional tribute to Pavel Srnicek on Tyneside
Tyneside turned out in force to pay its respects to former Newcastle goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek in an emotional farewell.
Hundreds of friends and fans joined family members at the Parish Church of St Andrew in the shadow of St James' Park for a memorial service on Wednesday following Srnicek's tragic death last month at the age of just 47.
Former team-mates Alan Shearer, Steve Harper, Shay Given, Rob Lee, Lee Clark, Alan Thompson, Scott Sellars, Steve Howey, Darren Peacock, Steve Watson and Brian Kilcline were in attendance. Former chairmen Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd and current managing director Lee Charnley, head coach Steve McClaren, football development manager Peter Beardsley and players Tim Krul and Steven Taylor also joined the congregation.
Harper, who was a 17-year-old aspiring keeper when he first met Srnicek, led the tributes, saying in an emotional eulogy: "You loved Newcastle, Pav, but I can assure you that Newcastle loved you.
"It was a privilege to meet you, it was a privilege to learn from you, it was a privilege to know you and call you my friend."
Close friend and agent Steve Wraith thanked those who had sent cards and best wishes to Srnicek's family in the Czech Republic on behalf of his mother Bernadette and brother Milan, who was present, and told the congregation of Srnicek's love for the city and for the club he represented with such distinction.
He said: "He may have arrived without a Geordie accent or an inkling of what a Geordie was, but somehow, he got it. He was a gentleman and a Geordie and his place will be forever written into the history of Newcastle United.
"We love you Pavel, we do, oh Pavel we love you."
During the service, which was led by club chaplain the Reverend Canon Glyn Evans, the congregation sang the FA Cup final hymn Abide With Me and the 23rd psalm, to which an extra verse had been added.
It read: "Pavel is a Geordie evermore, He's part of our family, He's played in goal, God rest his soul, a Geordie like you and me."
The service also included some of Srnicek's favourite songs, Gerry and the Pacemakers' You'll Never Walk Alone and Lifted by the Lighthouse Family, and ended with a recording of a Czech song, the title of which translates as Me and You.
Speaking afterwards, Shearer said: "It's not surprising, but it's great to see so many old faces here today. People have come from all over the world, all over the country to be here, and that tells you what a nice, genuine, humble, honest, hard-working professional Pav was. He was great to be around."