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By ESPN Staff

Tangerine tributes pour in at Thompson's funeral

Eddie Thompson was hailed as the "most passionate man in football'' today as Dundee United manager Craig Levein led the farewell tributes to his chairman.

An emotional Levein saluted Thompson's bravery, determination and leadership at his funeral service in St Mary's Episcopal Church in Broughty Ferry.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was among the many football figures who joined the Thompson family and Dundee United staff to remember Thompson, who died last week aged 67 following a long battle with prostate cancer.

Hundreds of United fans stood for hours outside to laud the man who ploughed millions of pounds into their club.

Levein spoke of his close friendship with Thompson and recalled the former convenience store tycoon's character in glowing terms.

He said: "He was very demanding - he wanted at least one meeting every day and probably four or five times on the phone.

"God forbid he read something in the newspapers that I forgot to tell him. I was terrified of him in all honesty.

"He was such a strong character, people asked how I had such a good relationship with the chairman.

"It comes down to the fact he has character traits I admire.

"When I sign football players, I look not just at their ability, I look at their passion for football.

"When I look at the chairman, he is the most passionate man I have met in life, and particularly in football.''

Levein recalled the "immense joy'' Thompson got from telling people about the history of United.

"I went to the boardroom one afternoon and this elderly couple from Canada were being regaled with tales of Hegarty, Narey, league wins, cup wins, European adventures,'' Levein said.

"I looked at the chairman and he was away in his own world.

"As the couple were leaving, I said, 'Just as a matter of interest, what is your connection with Dundee United?'

"They said, 'We don't really have one. We couldn't find our way back to the hotel so we just stopped at reception, but we didn't have the heart to tell him'.

"So they spent three hours hearing all about Dundee United.''

Levein struggled to compose himself as he added: "Bravery and determination are other characteristics I love. What a brave man.

"When I think of him in his office after coming back from hospital in agony....

"For long spells, he didn't take any painkillers. He is a far better man than me.

"No-one had greater determination. Every time he had a setback, he would bounce back right away.

"Even when he was in a wheelchair, he wasn't allowed to come into the club. But he sent Mrs Thompson to do the shopping and phoned a taxi and got himself in here.

"He was first in in the morning and last out at night and he demanded that from everybody.

"But you wanted to work with him because of his greatest quality.

"We are all looking for one main thing in our players and that's leadership. He had it in spades.

"He had such conviction that he would convince you that, whatever decision he made, he was 100% right.''

Levein finished: "If he was a football player, he would be the first name on my teamsheet every single week.''

Mourners also heard about Thompson's early days as a committed boyhood Motherwell fan to the birth of his love for United after moving to Dundee in the 1960s.

BBC sports reporter Jim Spence, who closely followed his protracted takeover of United in 2002, described Thompson as a "man of honour''.

"He promised United fans representation on the board, shares in the club and that he would plough his money in to make United a force again,'' Spence told the congregation.

"Everything he promised, he delivered.''

He added: "Having already spent more than £5million at Tannadice, he has provided for United in the future and the club now rests safely in the hands of the Thompson family.''

As the coffin was driven off in a hearse given an impromptu makeover with tangerine-and-black scarves, hundreds of United fans showed their gratitude by applauding their chairman one last time.


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