'Simply the best' - service celebrates life of former Hartlepool United manager Len Ashurst

Family, friends and former colleagues from both on and off the pitch have celebrated the life of former Hartlepool United player and boss Len Ashurst.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 5:20 pm
Former Hartlepool United manager Len Ashurst's funeral at Whitburn Parish Church.

Ashurst, whose first managerial role was at Pools in 1971, passed away last month at the age of 82.

After memorably saving the club from non-league football in 1972, he went on to manage Gillingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Newport County and Cardiff City and Sunderland, where he had spent most of his playing career.

A celebration of his life was held at Whitburn Parish Church on Monday, October 11, followed by a gathering at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light ground.

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Len Ashurst outside Roker Park.

The congregation included a number of Ashurst’s former teammates and players he managed, such as Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock, who he signed for Hartlepool, and former Black Cats and Pools player Dick Malone.

Mourners sang the hymn Praise My Soul the King of Heaven before Len’s friend Malcolm Bramley, who first met him 59 years ago while working as an office boy at Sunderland’s former Roker Park ground, paid tribute to him as “simply the best”.

He told the congregation that Len had set two conditions when asking him to speak at the service, namely: “One was ‘Don’t make me out to be prefect’. Well, Leonard, there’s absolutely no chance that is going to happen.

"And the second was ‘No sad faces, make it a celebration’.”

The order of service

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Watch the emotional tributes at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland fans pay resp...

Len had been ‘the greatest friend that anybody could possibly wish for’, he said, though there was one thing for which Malcolm had never forgiven him.

“He allowed his son Roger to become a massive Newcastle United supporter. Absolutely outrageous,” he added.

"The word legend, I think, is probably used a little bit too loosely these days but I have got no doubt whatsoever that Len Ashurst was a legend, not just in terms of his football career but as a man,” he said.

Jimmy Montgomery - the only player to have made more appearances for Sunderland than Len - arrives at the church

And he read Len’s own words from his autobiography: “I feel I have achieved everything I could have wished for, a man blessed during his lifetime.

"There have been crises, triumphs, victories and defeats along the way.

"However the bright, sparkling dawns have always outshone the fading sunsets and rainy days. Underpinning it all was my family and trusted friends.”

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A tribute from the Premier League
SAFC legend Micky Horswill attends the funeral of SAFC legend Len Ashurst at Whitburn Parish Church.
Gary Bennett chats to mourners