A MEMORIAL service for a man synonymous with North-East sporting endeavour attracted a huge turnout, including some of the region's most famous footballing names.

The service was held at St Andrew’s Church in Ingleby Greenhow, near Great Broughton to enable people to pay their respects to Jack Hatfield Junior who died last month aged 80.

Among those present were former Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray and former players Mark Proctor, David Hodgson, Gordon McQueen and Tony McAndrew.

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The town’s mayor, Ray Mallon, was also in attendance.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Mallon said: “I had known Jack Hatfield Junior for more than 45 years, having first met him when I was a competitive swimmer and water polo player.

"Between the ages of 13 and 18 Jack took me to competitions all over the north of England and in all that time never let me put my hand in my pocket.

"He was an incredibly kind and thoughtful man who really looked after and protected me in my younger years, and that is something I will never forget.”

The former Army and county champion swimmer and runner-up in three English championships was the son of North-East Olympic medal-winning swimmer John "Jack" Gatenby Hatfield.

His father founded the Middlesbrough store Jack Hatfield Sports in 1912, which is still trading today in Borough Road.

Mr Hodgson told of his long-standing relationship with Mr Hatfield.

"I have known Jack since I was 16 years of age," he said. "In those days when you wanted boots you went to the local sports shop and Jack was the guy who provided the boots for us at Middlesbrough Football Club.

"Myself (and fellow former players) Mark Proctor, Tony Mowbray and Tony McAndrew, were all there laughing and joking today about going down and getting boots from Jack Hatfield. It was an experience."

Mr Hodgson said he knew Mr Hatfield had been ill so his death had not come as a shock.

"Gordon Hodgson, who was a director of Darlington Football Club, he was very close to Jack and told me about two months ago that Jack was in the home at Middleton Hall and wasn't in the best of form. But somehow he hung on because he only had his 80th birthday recently.

"He obviously wanted to see that one through."

A director of Middlesbrough FC for more than a decade, Mr Hodgson said he recalled his time with Mr Hatfield with great fondness.

"Jack used to be the one who represented the club abroad and did it with dignity," he said. "He was not just a nice guy to us, he was an absolute gentleman - an old school director who had a lot of care and lot of thought for his football club. He was always a pleasure to be with."

Mr Hodgson said it was beyond standing room only at the memorial service.

"It was incredible," he said. "The church was chockablock. It wasn't the biggest church in the world, but it was full. Outside there must have been well over a hundred people and my God it was cold.

"It was a great turnout, with a lot of people coming from far and wide. People like big Gordon McQueen, Tony McAndrew, who travelled from Aston Villa to attend, along with other people involved with football.

"There was a great turnout from the sporting side, but he was obviously hugely respected and well-liked within his community because I think the village must have closed down for him for the day."

Mr Hodgson said he had chatted with Mr Hatfield's brother, Peter, who had told him of a discovery the family had made after his death.

"They found all these chits that Jack had had when they were sorting out the house," he said. "Myself and Mark Proctor both asked Peter if we could have one because it would be fantastic to keep that."

Mr Hatfield, whose three brothers Peter, Tom and Richard were also talented swimmers, played water polo into his 50s and was a director of Middlesbrough Football Club for more than a decade.

He was granted the Freedom of Middlesbrough in 2009.