FOOTBALL greats joined family and friends in saying goodbye to former Manchester City player and manager Johnny Hart in Warrington today.

Ex-England internationals Franny Lee, Mike Summerbee, Joe Corrigan and Peter Barnes were among those paying their respects at Johnny’s memorial service at St Thomas’ Church in Stockton Heath.

Warrington Guardian:

Franny Lee, 74, former England, Bolton, Manchester City and Derby County forward, making his way into church. Pictures: Mike Boden

Warrington Guardian:

Ex-England, Manchester City, Swindon, Burnley, Blackpool, Stockport and Mossley frontman or winger Mike Summerbee, 75, arrives for the memorial service

Warrington Guardian:

Former Manchester City and England goalkeeper Joe Corrigan, 74, on his way into the service

Warrington Guardian:

Ex-Manchester City and England left-winger Peter Barnes, 61. See more pictures in the gallery above

Warrington Guardian:

Former City player and manager Tony Book, left, with Mike Summerbee

Warrington Guardian:

City's former Scottish international Willie Donachie, left

Inside-forward Johnny, who spent his entire playing, coaching and managing career at City between 1944 and 1973, lived in Warrington for the past few years but died on November 26, aged 90 - exactly two years after his wife of 66 years, Connie, had died.

He was born and raised in Golborne, as were his footballing sons Paul and Nigel Hart.

Warrington Guardian:

The cover of Johnny Hart's memorial service sheet

In his emotional tribute, Paul, a defender who made more than 500 playing appearances over 18 years at clubs that include Leeds United and Blackpool, described his father as a strong-willed and stubborn man who was devoted to Manchester City and loved his family.

"We saw that strong will many times and his career had many highlights," said Paul, 65, who went into football management and coaching initially with Chesterfield in 1988 before spells with Nottingham Forest, Barnsley, Rushden & Diamond, Portsmouth, Queen's Park Rangers, Crystal Palace, Swindon Town, Notts County and Luton Town.

Warrington Guardian:

Johnny's son Paul Hart arriving at church for his dad's memorial service

"He was leading scorer a few times, but there were also some lows.

"He was cursed by injuries such as a broken leg, broken ribs, punctured lung and a dislocated knee."

Johnny missed out on two FA Cup Final appearances through injury but for all that he gave the Blues as a player, coach (from 1960) and manager (1973) his influence in some of the club's glory years mean he will always be remembered as a City great.

Nigel, a defender who made almost half of his 300-plus Football League appearances with Crewe Alexandra, and Paul never got to see their father play.

"I used to ask him, out of interest, what sort of player he was and he was very dismissive - not quick, nothing special," said Paul.

"Ken Barnes (wing half for City 1950-1961) and the lads used to live two streets away and he gave me more of a picture but I can only imagine what he was like.

"Dad started coaching in 1960 and influenced many young players over the coming years, some going on to play in the first team.

"I think dad was a good coach and enjoyed working with Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison with that wonderful team they developed together.

"Dad was eventually asked to manage the team when Malcolm left but I don't think management was for him. He preferred to stay in the background."

In a short stint as boss in 1973, Johnny established a resilient side that suffered only five losses in his 23 games in charge.

He famously tempted Denis Law back to Maine Road before ill-health cut short his managerial career six months into the job.

Two future England players who owed a lot to the early guidance from Johnny as a coach were goalkeeper Joe Corrigan and left-winger Peter Barnes, son of Johnny's former teammate Ken.

Corrigan, 74, told “He helped me so much when I first joined the club as an amateur in 1966.

“He was a lovely man, a great footballer and a really good coach.

"I always remember him and Dave Ewing helping with my footwork by them trying to hit my feet with poles - it really made you move them quick! He will be sadly missed.”

Barnes told he would never have played for City had it not been for Johnny’s intervention.

He said: “It was Johnny who put his foot down at City to sign me on schoolboy forms.

"I had had six or seven trials with Leeds United and with Don Revie being in charge and his connection with my dad, who played alongside him at City in the 1950s, Johnny Williamson took me along to Leeds because my dad was chief City scout and would never have told the club they had to sign me.

“I had to stand on my own two feet, but it was Johnny who told City they couldn’t let me sign for Leeds United and to get me back and get me on City’s books.

"Without Johnny putting pressure on the club to sign me, it might never have happened, so I have him to thank.

"He was a great man and we’ll all miss him. He played a major role in me playing for the club I loved, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”

Paul, before breaking down in tears, shared some memories of family life and tales of his dad's football days.

"It's safe to say dad would have been suitably embarrassed by all of this. He didn't really like a fuss," said Paul.

"During his school years it became clear that he was academically very bright and looked destined to follow his older brother Ken in attaining a university education.

"However, fate played a part. As a boy he was injured when he fell out of a tree and subsequently had to miss two years of schooling.

"I think he was secretly happy with this as it allowed him to develop his football skills.

"Further down the line he signed a professional contract with Manchester City at the age of 16.

"It wasn't long before his first-team debut and he was on his way to a career that spanned 30 years as player, coach and manager.

"And in those early days he was looked after by a couple of the senior players. One of them was the great Frank Swift (City and England goalkeeper, 1933-1949).

"He told us how during one match at Maine Road he collapsed in a heap on the pitch near the halfway line.

"The trainer came on to attend to his injury and Frank had concern, ran from his goal and proceeded to carry him off the pitch.

"At that point the trainer said "What are you doing? He's only got cramp!" and Frank dropped him to the ground, called him 'soft' and ran back to his goalmouth."

Paul continued: "On another occasion when they were announcing the teams at Maine Road as the players ran on the pitch, the fans booed when dad's name was announced.

"So he turned round and walked off and had to be escorted back on."

A humorous anecdote was shared about a family outing.

"Nigel and I had a wonderful childhood," he said.

"I remember once when mum and dad took us to Blackpool and it wasn't a very warm day.

"He took us to the outdoor pool on the promenade and the freezing water didn't particularly appeal to me and Nigel, but dad clad in his woollen trunks was undeterred.

"After a few spectacular dives off the diving board he moved on to the water side and he tried to persuade us to go in but we weren't impressed.

"However, a group of elderly women at the side of the pool were enthusiastically applauding each time he came down the slide and then jumped out of the pool flexing his muscles. This was in the 60s an he still had a footballer's body.

"It was only later that he told us that he'd worn a big hole in the back of his woollen trunks."

In the later years of Johnny's life he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease but in Paul's tribute it was clear that football remained firmly at the front of his thoughts.

"His memory began to gradually deteriorate but his long-term memory was better and he would sometimes recall things and people from the past.

"He would talk about Bert Trautmann, Roy Paul, Dave Ewing, Ken Barnes and many others.

"He didn't need much encouragement to recall those happy times and we never tired of listening. He told some great stories.

"He was devoted to Manchester City. He loved the club and the people.

"An apt summary of his life would be football, family and friends, probably in that order.

"Football always came first, but I know he loved and was immensely proud of all his family.

"It was a life well lived."