Members of Scotland’s football community were gathering today to say goodbye to Hearts and Rangers legend Sandy Jardine.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Rangers manager Ally McCoist were among about 1,000 mourners who attended a packed service in Edinburgh.
Former colleague and friend John Greig was a coffin-bearer at Mortonhall Crematorium as tributes were paid to the 65-year-old who lost his battle against cancer last Thursday.
He made almost 800 appearances in his Ibrox career, helping the side secure three league championships, five Scottish Cups and five League Cups.
Hailed for his role in Rangers’ 1972 Cup Winners’ Cup victory over Dynamo Moscow, his association with the club continued well beyond his playing days and he spearheaded fundraising efforts to save the club when it went into administration in 2012.
Jardine, who was christened William but was known to many as Sandy due to his hair colour, also enjoyed a successful spell as co-manager of his home team Hearts.
Tributes were led by lifelong friend David Ross, who told mourners that Jardine’s greatest loves were football, friends and family.
He said: “To all football fans, Billy will be remembered as one of the greatest ambassadors of the game.
“He was a wonderful player who played to win but played fairly and bore no grudges once the final whistle was blown.
“To the legions of Rangers fans, he will quite rightly be remembered not only for his football but also as someone who served the club with great distinction and loyalty, particularly through the recent financial crisis.”
The son of a bus driver, Jardine and his twin brother grew up near Tynecastle and he signed for Rangers in 1964.
The funeral heard that his first bonus was paid in cash, which he spent on a fur coat for his mother Peggy.
Jardine’s death followed an 18-month battle with cancer which began when he complained of a lump in his neck while out for dinner in November 2012.
Mr Ross said:”That was the beginning of the end.
“He suffered huge pain for over a year and it looked like he’d won the battle.
“However, it was not to be and in January this year he was informed that the cancer was terminal.
“Throughout this period Billy’s strength of character and courage was beyond belief.
“Never once did we hear him complain or ask ‘Why me?’.”
Thanks were given to NHS staff on behalf of Jardine’s wife of almost 45 years Shona, his son Steven, daughter Nicola and his seven grandchildren.
A collection was also made for the Macmillan cancer charity.
Mr Ross said: “Billy has been a dedicated, loving husband, father and grandfather.
“Let’s remember him for all his great qualities and appreciate the time we spent with him.
“We should make sure that his memory lives on in all of us as long as we live. He was simply the best.”
Former Rangers manager Walter Smith and captain Lee McCulloch were among those who turned out to pay their respects to Jardine.
Ex-Scotland manager Craig Levein, Hearts boss Gary Locke, Motherwell manager Stuart McCall, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and Martin Bain and Ian Durrant from Rangers also attended the 40-minute service, conducted by John Shields.
Several mourners stood outside to listen to the memorial after the chapel filled to capacity.
A floral tribute came from Rod Stewart, with the card attached to a wreath reading: “Goodbye Sandy. Rest in Peace. Rod Stewart.”
There were also flowers from staff and players at Hearts, and a card attached to a wreath from Rangers said: “Sandy, you are a true legend and we will miss you forever.”
Following his death, McCoist described Jardine as a ‘’truly remarkable human being’’ and a Rangers legend ‘’in every sense of the word’’.
Sir Alex also paid tribute to his former colleague as ‘’a noble and courageous man’’.
He said: ‘’The respect he is held in at Rangers is immense. He was one of the greatest players ever to wear the jersey.’’
Jardine, who made almost 800 appearances in his Ibrox career, died last week aged 65. He had cancer.
Rangers manager Ally McCoist led tributes to the former defender and Scotland captain. He is expected to join players past and present at a funeral service in Edinburgh later.
Jardine helped the Glasgow side secure three league championships, five Scottish Cups and five League Cups.
The funeral will take place at Mortonhall Crematorium following Edinburgh-born Jardine’s death last Thursday. He had been diagnosed with cancer 18 months previously.
Sir Alex Ferguson paid tribute to his former colleague as “a noble and courageous man”.
He said: “The respect he is held in at Rangers is immense. He was one of the greatest players ever to wear the jersey.”
Jardine’s association with the team lasted well beyond his playing days and he spearheaded fundraising efforts to save the club when it went into administration in 2012.
When news of his illness broke, supporters rose to their feet in applause in the second minute of every game - a reference to his favoured number two jersey.
Jardine is survived by his wife, Shona, children, Steven and Nicola, as well as several grandchildren.