SportSoccer

Team-mates and fans join family for funeral of Dalian Atkinson

SoccerBy Sunday World
Former Aston Villa team-mate Ian Taylor
Former Aston Villa team-mate Ian Taylor
Former Aston Villa team-mate Tommy Johnson
Former Aston Villa team-mate Tommy Johnson
Former Aston Villa manager Brian Little
Former Aston Villa manager Brian Little
Atkinson's coffine is carried into the crematorium
Atkinson's coffine is carried into the crematorium
Mourner attend the ceremony
Mourner attend the ceremony
Atkinson was a star for Aston Villa in the early years of the Premier League
Atkinson was a star for Aston Villa in the early years of the Premier League

Former stars from the football world joined mourners as emotional tributes were paid to ex-Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson at his funeral.

The 48-year-old died after he was shot with a police Taser when officers were called to an incident in his home town of Telford, Shropshire, earlier this year.

Hundreds of mourners - including family members, former Villa players Ian Taylor and Tommy Johnson, and football fans - gathered at the town's crematorium to see the striker laid to rest on Saturday.

It is weeks since Atkinson was fatally shot in the street where he had grown up, in an incident involving West Mercia Police officers, on August 15.

He died 90 minutes later, despite hospital doctors carrying out CPR for more than half an hour in a bid to save him.

At his funeral, during the humanist service, celebrant Peter Mansell, said: "There was no- one quite like Dalian, there never was before and there never will be again."

He told how, as a youngster, he played football in the street in Meadow Close with his brothers and friends - the same road where he was shot by police years later.

As a schoolboy, Atkinson was spotted by talent scouts, leading to his apprenticeship at Ipswich Town FC.

Mr Mansell said: "He found sitting at a school desk boring, but excelled at football and athletics."

He added that Atkinson loved the "playboy lifestyle" was "energetic, cheeky and funny" but also "generous, caring and protective".

Family man Atkinson was "an inspiration to his nieces and nephews" and often went home "for his mother's home cooking".

Mr Mansell said: "For those who loved Dalian, a part of their world is gone."

In her tribute, Atkinson's niece Josie said: "Inspiration is the word most appropriate to you, a figure I looked up to and still do."

Another niece, Cleo, said: "You had such a charismatic soul and enriched everyone's lives with your intellect, insight and warmth, never failing to make people around you laugh."

Mr Mansell told the grieving congregation: "Picture him among you, smiling and laughing."

Concluding the service, mourners were told there was "only one song" left to play in Atkinson's memory - as they filed out, En Vogue's What A Man filled the air.

Atkinson is to be interred at nearby Hadley Cemetery later.

Ahead of the funeral, Atkinson's sister, Elaine, expressed frustration at not knowing why "such force was used" by police when they confronted him on August 15.

Relatives said he was "not in his right mind" when he was shot with the Taser at about 1.30am.

His sister said: "Dalian was supposed to have been admitted to hospital for treatment on the day he died.

"We want to celebrate Dalian's life but the way that he died while he was so vulnerable casts such a dark shadow over everything.

"Every day is filled with agony and frustration because we still do not know what happened nor understand why such force was used on him."

Two West Mercia officers are under criminal investigation and the Independent Police Complaints Commission is also investigating the retired striker's death.