"He is Welsh. He belongs to the people." So said Glenda Charles, the widow of the greatest footballer Wales has ever produced, as she bequeathed the ashes of her husband, John, to the city of his birth at a memorial service in Swansea yesterday.
"When he died what I wanted to do was to take his ashes to Wales," said Glenda, who lives in Yorkshire, where Charles spent half of his spectacular and blemish-free 16-year playing career, in two spells at Elland Road. "I have been upset about it because he will be far away from me, but that is where he belongs. He belongs there with his family and friends."
More than 600 people, including former team-mates from Leeds, Juventus and Wales, packed Swansea's Brangwyn Hall to celebrate the life of the "Gentle Giant", who died in February, aged 72. His funeral had been held in Leeds on St David's Day but Glenda had wanted his final resting place to be Swansea.
"I know now I really did make the right decision to bring him home," she said after yesterday's ceremony - a celebration of Charles' life replete with rousing choral music and moving tributes - that also marked the handing over of his ashes. They will be incorporated into a statue in his honour to be erected at Swansea City's new White Rock Stadium.
Among the speakers yesterday was Clive Thomas, the former referee. "If you had 22 players of John's character on the pitch, you wouldn't need a referee, only a timekeeper," he said.
There was also a message from Sir Bobby Robson, who played for England against Charles' Wales.
"John wasn't only one of the greatest footballers who ever lived," the Newcastle United manager said. "He was one of the greatest men ever to have played the game."Reuse content