“Cliffy Ahmed is our own Local Hero.”
Those words echoed through a packed out South Shields Crematorium this afternoon, as scores of loved ones and fellow football fans turned out to pay their respects to 57-year-old Newcastle United superfan Cliffy.
Many Mourners wore football shirts as they entered the chapel to the sound of Local Hero, reminiscent of the teams coming out at St James’s Park.
Humanist minister Michael Howe said: “Local hero usually refers to the likes of Alan Shearer, Gazza or Jackie Milburn, but now it also refers to Cliffy Ahmed.
“I am proud to be conducting a service for one of Newcastle United’s biggest fans.”
Cliffy had been to see Newcastle take on Manchester United on Tuesday, January 12, and went for a drink in Nine Bar – behind the Gallowgate End, at St James’s Park, after the 3-3 draw.
Remember the times Cliffy made people laugh.Michael Howe
But after leaving the bar to make his way home, Cliffy, from West Holborn, South Shields, suffered a cardiac arrest and was later found lying close to the Strawberry pub, just yards from his beloved St James’s Park.
He was taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where he died the following day.
Mr Howe told the congregation how Cliffy lived for everything black and white.
He said: “Nobody knows when Cliffy’s first game was but he followed his team wherever they went. He was a true fan.
“Despite the difficulties he had, Cliffy in those days would catch the train at High Shields station and make his journey through to Newcastle.
“The train would be buzzing with atmosphere, everyone talking about the game and when the doors opened at the station he’d hear the roar and be swept up along Pink Lane to the large cathedral on the hill.
“Something happened to him on that first match, it was a place where he felt safe and belonged. He made 43,000 new friends.”
Cliffy travelled around the country watching the Magpies, and went to watch the players train at Benwell so frequently even Kevin Keegan knew him.
He was passionate about all things football and would always be writing to the fanzine and memorabilia shop The Back Page with his views.
Mr Howe said: “Cliffy was known for his letters. Some of his more memorable letters were ‘Joe Hart looks like Action Man. Okay’ and ‘ Lester Piggott supports Leicester City. Okay’.
“He was quite a character, with his thick mop of black hair and denim jacket, and became something of a celebrity with the local press who wanted comments from supporters after games.”
Mourners had time to think of their favour memories with Cliffy while Home Newcastle by Busker was played.
Mr Howe added: “Remember those times Cliffy made people laugh with his tales during those long boring journeys on away games.”
As the notes of Cliffy’s favourite song ‘Blaydon Races’ faded out, the service ended and donations were collected for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Diabetes UK.