Moving tributes to Sidley soccer pals

EMOTIONAL tributes were paid this week to the Sidley United soccer pals killed in a car accident.

Family and friends turned out in their hundreds for the funerals for the two 20-year-olds on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It was standing room only for the funeral of James Duffell, who died at the age of 20.

Streams of family, friends and footballers poured into St Mary's Church in Battle on Tuesday to pay tribute to the popular sportsman.

His devastated parents Jane and Cliff, and sister Paula, are well known in Battle and they were surrounded at the moving service by the hundreds of people who knew and loved him.

James, of Caldbec Hill, played in goal for Sidley United at the time of his death but he had played for a number of teams since the age of seven.

He went to Battle and Langton School, Claverham and Bexhill College until the summer when he started his working life as a sports coach.

Beautiful flowers spelling out James' name decorated the coffin, which was carried slowly through the packed church during the first hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful.

The Dean of Battle, the Very Reverend Canon William Cummings, reminded James' school friends about the first assembly he took at Battle and Langton School in May 1991 before reading a poignant passage from Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

Joint manager of Sidley United, Andy Laskey, gave the first tribute to James, who was killed with best friend and team mate Liam Cox on the A2100 Hastings Road on October 23.

He said James had a real natural talent for playing in goal and was "Sidley's number one".

Off the pitch, Mr Laskey said James enjoyed dressing room banter and always had a grin on his face.

"The last night we all trained together he had us in stitches with his impersonation of his mate Carl doing his microwave cooking," he said.

"He was always polite and was a credit to his parents.

"To use his favourite word, he was absolute quality."

James' father Cliff gave an emotional tribute to his only son, praising his many talents and his warm, infectious personality.

"There was never a dull moment when James was around," said Mr Duffell. "He had a great beaming smile that melted everyone's hearts.

"He was the centre of so many people's lives. We have been absolutely amazed at the number of people who have told us how he influenced and changed their lives.

"We are so very proud of him for all that he has been: a star footballer, sunlight and music lover, a caring person, a fine brother and our son.

"He adored companionship and he has it even now.

"James will never walk alone."

The crowd stood in silence, many comforting each other, as the coffin was taken out to Simply the Best by Tina Turner.

Liam Cox's grieving friends and relatives were queuing outside St John the Baptist Church, Westfield, for his funeral on Wednesday.

The church was overflowing with people, many having to stand for the sad occasion.

For the second day running Sidley United team-mates and football colleagues arrived at a service in their droves.

"Love is the greatest gift" was the theme expressed in the bible reading and address by the Reverend Canon John Fletcher.

He described the importance of the love shown by all those who have supported Liam's family, in particular his devastated parents Leon and Liz and sister Lauren, since the tragedy.

Canon Fletcher said: "Liam was a great guy. He will be remembered for the kind of person he was; his vibrant personality, his energy, his laughter, his sense of fun.

"We have packed this church to overflowing today to remember Liam, to give thanks and to celebrate his life. He was so special to those who knew and loved him."

Liam's friend Paul Sorrenti made an emotional tribute to Liam, recounting stories of the humour that surrounded him in his short life.

"I have more than a lifetime of memories," said Paul. "There are so many stories to tell and so many more to hear.

"He was such a character, he was so himself, so special."

Liam's coffin, adorned with beautiful flowers, was carried out to Freebird by Lynard Skynard.