Family, friends and colleagues gathered on Thursday to pay tribute to Ian Jackson, a long-serving and loyal employee of West Ham United who tragically died recently.
More than 300 people - including managers, players and staff past and present - turned up at South Essex Crematorium in Upminster, Essex, to pay their respects to Ian, who died suddenly on January 2nd at the age of just 38.
Ian was Training Ground Co-ordinator at the Club's Chadwell Heath headquarters, and had been a valued member of staff for more than 22 years.
He originally arrived at the Club as a 16-year-old school-leaver in 1983 for some part-time work but made such an impression that legendary manager John Lyall soon offered him a permanent position.
He started out on the groundstaff at Upton Park but moved to Chadwell Heath two years later as a trainee groundsman, before eventually becoming Training Ground Co-ordinator. During his 22 years at the Club, he worked under six of the 10 managers in West Ham United's history.
Ian leaves a wife, Michelle, and three beautiful children, Sam (nine), Chloe (six) and Jack (two), whom he was completely devoted to. Young Sam was a familiar face himself down at Chadwell Heath, often accompanying his dad to work during school holidays, and every moment of Ian's spare time was spent enjoying life with his family.
A hugely popular figure at Chadwell Heath, Ian was liked and admired by everyone who knew him, inside and outside of West Ham United. Always smiling, with a laugh and a joke for every occasion, his bubbly personality had a lasting effect on everyone who met him.
Alan Pardew's team paid their respects to Ian by wearing black armbands for the FA Cup clash against Norwich City on Saturday, while the under-18 side held a minutes' silence before their game with Ipswich Town.
Youth Academy Director Tony Carr, who had known Ian since he first arrived at the Club 22 years ago, said: "Everybody is stunned by Ian's death and most of the players and the staff are still in a state of disbelief. It has deeply affected everybody at the training ground and at the Club. I have known Ian for all of his working life and I am devastated. Nothing was ever too much for him and his passing is a great loss to everybody who knew him."
Ian will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
*The Club will be planning a number of fund-raising and memorial events for the benefit of Ian's young family, and any friends or supporters who wish to make a donation can contact Alison Lovett at: West Ham United FC, Boleyn Ground, Green Street, Upton Park, London E13 9AZ, or by email to [email protected]