HEARTFELT messages full of warm memories of a former Evesham United footballer were tagged onto 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-year-old Neil Emms at St Peter’s Church in Bengeworth.

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.

Irene Heath, secretary of Ambassador Football Club, 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.

“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,” she said.

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 to DVD by a friend.

“The whole place erupted with cheers when Emmsy scored.

“It was a beautiful moment and a really nice touch,” said 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 Jubilee Stadium ground in Cheltenham Road in the summer.

An inquest has been opened and adjourned by Worcestershire Coroners Service.