Players in a West Swindon children’s football team AFC Greendown from 1988 to 2000 were shocked to learn via Facebook of the death of their one time coach Gary Williams, aged 45, at his home in Grange Park in October.
Kingsdown Crematorium was packed with over 100 family, friends and former players and their parents to hear tributes to a vibrant, passionate character who in recent years started to suffer from failing health. The coffin draped with his beloved pale blue Manchester City shirt was carried in by Gary’s sons Jamie and Jake and four of his friends to ‘You get what you want’ by New Radicals. His friend Justin Dukes spoke of Gary’s infectious wit, humour and cutting sarcasm. He said, "you are a legend Gary; you’ll live on through your children and in our memories."
The crowd heard or a complex character who at school made a specialism of getting into scrapes and punishment but in later life became passionate about football coaching and writing poetry in his private moments.
Unfortunately his passion for football got the best of Gary at a junior tournament when he punched a referee after a game in 1997 where one of his players had been badly injured and the game was not halted.
The Wiltshire Football Association delivered the ultimate and crushing penalty by banning Gary from the game for life. He continued to appeal for clemency, receiving another curt denial a few weeks before he died.
Alex Bridges flew back from Barcelona to be at the funeral. “Gary was a massive character in my childhood. He was inspirational and taught me and many others the importance of working together and how you can achieve your goals with determination and self-belief," he said.
“He was also a brilliant community-spirited man. His passing is such a loss but us kids will always have the amazing memories he gave us and the feeling that he shaped us as adults.”
Parents Martin and Helen Reed from Nine Elms were saddened to hear of Gary’s passing. “He left a deep impression on the boys. Gary taught them at a young age a sense of teamwork and provided them with lifeskills for adulthood.”
Gary’s son Jamie from Shaw said he and the family were touched by the messages of condolence. “He obviously affected a lot of people in ways we didn’t realise.”