THOUSANDS of mourners turned out in Leeds yesterday to pay their final respects to football great John Charles.
Fans lined the streets outside Leeds Parish Church while family and friends congregated inside to honour the man known as the Gentle Giant.
And the Leeds United legend, who died on February 21 aged 72, was given an emotional send-off at Elland Road, the ground he graced so many times as a player.
More than 5,000 people gathered in the East Stand and gave the hearse carrying his coffin a standing ovation as it was driven from the pitch followed by a procession, headed by his widow Glenda and including the current Leeds squad.
This was a fitting St David's Day tribute to proud Welshman Charles - he was worshipped by fans for his goal-scoring feats during two spells at the club and his continued role as an ambassador for the game.
In 327 games for Leeds he found the net 157 times. This prolific record earned him a move to Italian giants Juventus for a then world record fee of £65,000.
While there he earned the nickname "King John" and was voted the best foreign player ever to play in Series A.
Many footballing blue-bloods attended the more intimate Leeds Parish ceremony.
Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Dennis Law were among the congregation that waited patiently in the chapel while ex-Leeds stars Norman Hunter, Alan Clarke, Mick Jones, Peter Lorimer, Paul Reaney - along with former second team player and friend Bobby Shields - acted as pallbearers.
Former Elland Road favourites Gary McAllister, Chris Kamara, Gary Speed and John Lucic were also there alongside Wales managers past and present, John Toshack, Town coach Terry Yorath and Mark Hughes.
Robert Bettega, the Juventus vice-president, was also there to pass on the club's regards to the man known in Italy as Gigante Buono - the Good Giant.
The moving ceremony, conducted by the Rector of Leeds, the Rev Canon Graham Smith, included rousing hymn Bread of Heaven, sung by the Swansea Male Voice Choir.
Touchingly, John Toshack read his own poem, Gentle Giant - written about Charles.
An extract from the poem reads: "The greatest player there's ever been, God bless John and may he rest in peace."
Charles died in his sleep at Pinderfields Hospital, in Wakefield, near his Birkenshaw home, after being flown back to Britain following surgery in Italy.
After a reading on the pitch by the Rev Steve Mitchell, current Leeds manager Eddie Gray paid tribute to the departed striker.
Addressing the silent crowd, he said: "Big John was a lovely man - a great man as well as being a great footballer.
"It must be great comfort for Glenda and the family to know how much big John was loved.
"What a wonderful man he was in the game of football and what a great man he was in general."
Following two minutes' silence, the club anthem, Marching On Together, came through the tannoy and King John left Elland Road for the last time.
As it had been so many times before, it was to a standing ovation.