Belfast Telegraph

Funeral for Rangers fan Ryan Baird told how George Best held him as a toddler

By Chris McCullough

Mourners have heard how the legendary George Best once comforted a football fan who died in a horror coach crash in Scotland.

Rangers manager Mark Warburton was among around 400 mourners at the funeral of club supporter, 39-year-old Ryan Baird, as he was laid to rest in Co Antrim on Saturday.

The Ibrox chief made the trip over after Friday night's game at Inverness, and took his seat alongside Ryan's family at Magheramorne Presbyterian Church near Larne.

Ryan was killed when the bus he and 36 other Rangers fans from the Nith Valley Loyal Rangers Supporters' Club were travelling in on their way to a match at Ibrox overturned in East Ayrshire on October 1.

He had moved over to Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway around six years ago and was engaged to be married next August to his fiancée Sarah Hughes.

He was father to twins Dean and Kyle and the loving son of Alex and Maree Baird.

Mourners came from various parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland to attend the service for their fellow fan and friend.

Around 200 people managed to get into the church and the rest were accommodated in the church hall.

Ryan (left) was a member of the Orange Order, as is his father, and it was fellow members who led the coffin out of the church following the service, conducted by the Rev Neil Bingham.

Ryan had been a deputy district master of his local Orange Lodge and also a member of the Apprentice Boys and Royal Black Preceptory.

Rev Bingham told the mourners that Ryan's grandfather Arty had also been a life-long Rangers fan.

He said: "Ryan was just two years of age and was sitting in his high chair one day.

"Arty went over to him and whispered in his ear, 'Up The Blues!' Ryan responded by pushing his two arms up in the air."

The minister also mentioned how Ryan was a fan of Manchester United footballer George Best.

He recalled the day the star made a big impression on him.

"George Best was playing football in Belfast and Ryan was taken along by his family," Rev Bingham added.

"As George was walking off, he heard a child crying in the crowd.

"He went over and said 'Give him to me' and held Ryan in his arms. Ryan was too young to remember this.

"And unfortunately there were no pictures to record this special moment, not like now when it would be all over Facebook and other social media."

As Ryan's coffin was being carried out of the church the organist softly played the tune to BBC One's Match of the Day programme.

Many of Ryan's fellow Rangers supporters donned the team scarves for the occasion in tribute to their friend.

Ryan was also a member of Larne Rangers Supporters' Club and played in both Cairncastle Flute Band and Carnlough Flute Band.

A service attended by around 500 was held on Thursday in Sanquhar, where some personnel from Rangers Football Club helped form a guard of honour with fans.

On Friday night, a minute's silence was observed at the match between Rangers and Inverness Caledonian Thistle in memory of Ryan.

Rangers will also hold a tribute to Ryan during their match against St Johnstone on October 26, when a minute's applause will be held in the 39th minute of the game.

A Rangers spokesman said on Saturday: "The management and staff have been doing their best to support all of those involved in this accident.

"It's the least we can do and we are more than happy if it helps in any way at this tragic time."

Belfast Telegraph

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