Hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects at Lancaster City legend Neil Marshall’s funeral service.
Lancaster’s Priory Church was packed on Monday in tribute to the father-of-two, who passed away on November 16 at the age of just 31 following a battle with cancer.
Neil enjoyed a 10-year career at Lancaster City, and was club captain when he retired at the end of the 2015/16 season.
Many mourners wore Lancaster City football shirts or ties, while others wore the red of Liverpool, who Neil supported.
City players and staff past and present attended the service, including former manager Darren Peacock and assistant manager Trevor Sinclair.
And the funeral procession passed the club’s Giant Axe ground on its way to the Priory, which is where Neil and his wife Kim were married.
The hymn One More Step Along The World I Go was also played at both the funeral and the couple’s wedding.
Tributes were read by family and friends including Ben Simm, a lifelong friend and captain at Lancaster Cricket Club.
The service ended with a rendition of the Liverpool FC anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone, before friends and family made their way to Scotforth Cemetery and then Lancaster Cricket Club.
A fund has now been set up to support Neil’s family – wife Kim and young children Max and Daisy.
Organisers, who are planning 12 months of fundraising, hope the many hundreds from far and wide who have paid tribute to the long-serving Giant Axe captain will now support the cause in Neil’s memory.
All gate receipts from Lancaster City’s emotional game against Mossley last Tuesday are to be donated to the fund to kickstart the year of support.
The fundraising team – Neil’s father-in-law David ‘Ginner’ Speak, former Lancaster City chairman Mick Hoyle, club president Ian Sharp, ex-president Dave Needham, former senior officer at Lancaster City Council and lifelong supporter Roger Muckle, Derek ‘Chalkie’ Moorby and respected local football coach George Norrie – hope this will just be the start.
Mr Hoyle said: “We want to raise as much money as possible over the next 12 months in Neil’s memory for his family.
“We want to make sure they are looked after because they shouldn’t have lost Neil so young.
“With everything he’s done for the football club and the town we feel as though the least we can do is make an effort for his family.
“The reaction (to his death) has been remarkable so far and if anyone wants to help, be it with a car boot sale or by running a marathon or anything, they should get in touch with us.”
Neil, who lived just yards from the club in Beech Street, Lancaster, made 435 appearances across 10 years with City having joined back in 2006 as the club looked to the local leagues due to financial difficulties.
He gained a reputation as a fierce but fair competitor, quickly making the number five shirt his own and becoming Mr Lancaster City.
Hundreds of messages of condolence were posted on Facebook and Twitter by family and friends, current and former team mates and the wider football community after his death.
Former Liverpool great Jamie Carragher, who played alongside Neil in a charity match earlier this year, and ex-world champion boxer Anthony Crolla, who attended Neil’s testimonial dinner in Lancaster, also paid tribute to the popular player.
A plumber by trade, Neil continued to play until May despite being told late last year that he could not have any more surgery on his groin, the cancer having first been detected in his lymph nodes five years ago.
For more information on the Neil Marshall Memorial Fund contact Mick Hoyle on 07860 688104.
Anyone wishing to donate can make a bank transfer to account number, 11798286, with sort code 40-27-02, using reference Neil Marshall Memorial Fund.