HEARTFELT messages full of warm memories of a former Evesham United footballer were tagged on to balloons and released into the heavens by his friends and family.

More than 600 people, including numerous former team mates and representatives of local football leagues, attended the funeral of 47-yearold Neil Emms at St Peter’s Church, Bengeworth, on Monday.

In an emotional farewell to the man affectionately known as ‘Emmsy’, loving ‘messages to heaven’ were attached to 47 balloons – one for each year of his life – and released into the skies above Evesham.

Secretary of Ambassador Football Club Irene Heath said that the number of people at the funeral and subsequent get-together held at the club showed how well known and loved Mr Emms was.

She said: “It was a wonderful turnout. Everyone made the effort to come along and pay their respects. It was a lovely service. The eulogy was read by Rob Scrivens, an old team mate of his and was very nicely done.”

Mourners entered the service to the sounds of Stop Crying Your Heart Out by Oasis and Champagne Supernova by the same band was also played. Take That’s Never Forget was poignantly played as friends and family left the church.

After the burial at Waterside Cemetery, the group met at the Ambassador Club where the balloons were released and football matches Mr Emms played in were watched on television after being converted from VHS tape to DVD by a friend.

“The whole place erupted with cheers when Emmsy scored. It was a beautiful moment and a really nice touch,” added Mrs Heath.

Mr Emms, who died on November 16, played for Evesham United in the late 80s and early 90s and for a number of other clubs in the area.

He also represented Evesham United Old Boys versus a Manchester United Legends team in the opening match at the club’s new Cheltenham Road ground in the summer.

An inquest has been opened and adjourned by the county coroner.