Funeral For Ex-Birmingham City Footballer Killed In Tunisia.

An ex-Birmingham City footballer killed with his wife in the Tunisia beach massacre has been described as ``one of the best'' footballers of his time after a colleague said he regularly ``skinned'' George Best.

At the funeral of former Birmingham City Football Club player Denis Thwaites, 70, and Elaine, 69, the couple were described as ``two lovely, beautiful and precious people''.

The Blackpool couple were two of the 30 British holidaymakers killed in the terrorist attack in the resort of Sousse.

Amongst the mourners was former Birmingham City player Malcolm Page, 68, who, said Mr Thwaites - who played for the first team for 10 years before retiring at 27, was ``one on his own''.

Mr Page said: ``His loyalty and great skill as a footballer were the two great things I will remember. He really was one of the best skilled of that time. It was the George Best era. He played with him in Malta and he skinned George all the time. I wouldn't compare him with anyone, he was one on his own.''

The seaside town of Lytham St Annes came to a standstill as mourners lined the streets to pay their respects outside the Fairhaven United Reformed Church.

As their coffins were brought into the church, Amazing Grace was played on the organ to the scores of mourners in the congregation who wiped away tears as they were handed an order of service showing smiling pictures of the couple.

Mrs Thwaites, a hospitality worker, was said to have been ``like a bottle of pop - all fizzed up inside'' with excitement and had been counting down the days until their trip.

They had arrived at the resort two days before the attack.

Mr Thwaites, a hospital porter, played for Birmingham City from 1962 to 1972.

He appeared in the club's first team as a 16-year-old in 1961 before turning professional the following year and had played for England at schoolboy level.

He was part of the Birmingham City squad that won the club's first major honour - the 1963 League Cup - and missed only six games between November 1964 and April 1966.

He also helped his second division team hold Manchester United, whose players included George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, to a 2-2 draw in an FA Cup tie in February 1969.

Their daughter Lindsey paid tribute to her parents to say that they were ``the kindest, most caring, loving parents any daughter could wish for.''

The Rev David Phillips told the congregation: ``Two lovely, beautiful and precious people have had their lives taken from them, without cause, and with a violence that was wholly undeserved. The sorrow that we carry today will take a long time to ease. It is unlikely ever to pass away from those who loved Elaine and Denis the most.''

Birmingham City Football Club are to hold a minute's silence for Mr Thwaites on August 1 at their friendly at St Andrews against Leicester City.

Other former footballers to pay their respects included Alan Campbell, Malcolm Beard, Colin Green and Brian Sharples.

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