It was a night of celebration and memories on Tuesday when famous faces joined the people of Spen at a sportsmen's dinner to remember the football legend John Charles.

Eddie Gray and Jimmy Armfield were among the guest speakers at the dinner and John's widow Glenda officially opened Gomersal Park Hotel's gardens in tribute to the Gentle Giant.

All money raised on the evening will go towards the John Charles Appeal based in Birkenshaw, where John and Glenda lived.

At the start of the evening diners watched Glenda cut the ribbon tied across the bench in the new John Charles gardens which holds a plaque reading: "In tribute to John Charles, the Gentle Giant. 1932-2004."

John and Glenda ran Gomersal Park Hotel for three years in the 1980s.

Glenda said: "I can't think of something to commemorate John's life that is more perfect.

"We had three very happy years here and John would look out of the big bay window thinking about using this field to play cricket and football with the rest of the village so this is the perfect tribute.

"I can really see John sitting on this bench and I will picture him here every time I drive past."


Speaking at the meal were former Leeds United manager Eddie Gray, former players Peter Lorimer and Jimmy Armfield, journalists John Morgan and Ken Jones and commentator John Helm - all who knew John and remember him fondly.

After the Welsh themed dinner a signed Bradford Bulls Rugby ball in a case, a signed John Charles print, a John Charles signed replica Welsh football shirt and signed Leeds football shirt were auctioned by MC and former footballer Keith Hanvey.

The evening raised approximately 1,600 for the John Charles Appeal which has been set up to help youngsters in the Spen Valley in sport.

Glenda is a patron of the appeal which is currently organising the largest sporting exhibition in Britain to visit Spen next year.

A model of the Gentle Giant Trust's exhibition is on show at Slator's Electrical Store in Cleckheaton with a view to getting sponsors for the event.

John was a proud Welsh man who played football for Leeds United, Juventus and Wales. He made his Leeds debut in 1949 and was known for his fair play, dubbed the Gentle Giant by his Italian fans.

He died in February aged 72.

By Deborah Hessell