FAMILY, friends, football fans and players from across the country were united in paying their respects at the funeral of a 'legend with a heart of gold'.

Ex-footballer James Dean, from Oswaldtwistle, died earlier this month at the age of 35.

Former coaches and team-mates, including ex-Blackburn Rovers players Garry Flitcroft and Matt Jansen, who he worked with at Chorley FC, lined the streets outside the Brave Church in Oswaldtwistle today.

RESPECT: Hundreds of mourners attend the funeral of James Dean in Oswaldtwistle

RESPECT: Mourners attend the funeral of James Dean in Oswaldtwistle

Mourners wore Accrington FC, Burnley, AFC Fylde and FC Halifax Town football shirts emblazoned with ‘Deano 9’, in his memory.

The 6ft 3in striker had a long and successful footballing career, taking on a starring role at many non-league teams including Chorley, Bury FC, Harrogate and FC Halifax Town.

On May 5, he went missing but tragically his body was found in the Moscow Mill Street area four days later.

His death, which police said is not being treated as suspicious, sent shockwaves through the community and footballing circles.

LEGEND: James Dean in action for Chorley

LEGEND: James Dean in action for Chorley

The sombre occasion was also a celebration of much-loved James' life and family members including his two sons wore football shirts from his former clubs with Deano 9 on the back.

Many people had to wait outside the church and watch the service. On his coffin lay a pair of football boots, kickboxing pads, a photograph while playing for Chorley FC and flowers with ‘Deano’ and ‘Dad’.

SAD: Hundreds of mourners attend the funeral of James Dean in Oswaldtwistle

SAD: Hundreds of mourners attend the funeral of James Dean in Oswaldtwistle

Hall of Fame by The Script was played as well-wishers took their seats, as well as Rockabye by Clean Bandit which the singing fan had sung on a Carpool Karaoke-style video.

Paying tribute, Sam Duerden said: “This is not the end for James, this is a comma and not a full stop. It is a sad moment, it is a testing moment but hope we will see James one day.

“We have to remember the amazing legacy he has left for us in his kids and we celebrate that."

Fun-loving James was well-known for singing with friends and Mr Duerden added: “I can imagine James is probably doing a carpool karaoke in heaven.”

CHARACTER: James Dean singing his carpool karaoke

CHARACTER: James Dean singing his carpool karaoke

James was a much-loved character and a poem was read by former manager and team-mate Tom Baker from a Trafford FC fan recalling how ‘he dragged Chorley to levels they had not been for years and he was a classic number nine who played without fear’ and that he was a ‘one in a million Deano’.

He also said that Mr Dean was the ‘life and soul of the party’ and a ‘fantastic man’ and a ‘legend’.

His emotional brother recalled James had a ‘heart of gold’ and ‘would do anything for anyone’.

He added that he was much-loved and there could have been thousands paying their respects.

Speaking about Mr Dean's children Cole and Jaxon , he said: “He absolutely worshipped you both and I promise you, he loved you more than you ever will know.

“I love him and I will miss my brother. I will always be here for you boys and if any of you ever need anything, I am only a phone call away.”



Meanwhile, James' dad thanked the community for their support.

He said: “Since James went missing, the amount of people that helped in the first night with the searches - 50 people out looking for him.

“The cards, the flowers, the gifts, we cannot thank people enough. From ex-footballers, managers and everyone we want to say thank you. We have read every card, every message and we promise you we have.

“It is just a hard time at the moment and now the focus are his sons. The fundraising page has reached over £16,000 which is absolutely amazing.

“The love that has been shown to us and the family has been unbelievable and I just want to say from the bottom of our broken hearts - thank you.”

The poignant service was brought to an end with the song History, by One Direction.