Stars say emotional farewell to tragic goalkeeper

England star Adam Johnson joined fellow footballers yesterday at the funeral of his friend, goalkeeper Dale Roberts.

The 24-year-old Rushden and Diamonds player was found hanged at his home in Higham Ferrers, Rushden, Northamptonshire, on December 14.

Roberts, who had played for the England C team after a promising start in youth football, grew up with Johnson in the former pit village of Horden, County Durham.

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The two boys were school friends and their families went on holiday together.

Both played academy football for Middlesbrough before Roberts signed for Nottingham Forest.

St Mary's Church, known as the Miners' Cathedral, in Horden, was packed for the hour-long service.

The Rushden squad, who travelled up on the team coach, wore club suits for the sombre occasion.

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Johnson was with the Roberts family immediately behind the coffin as it was carried in by friends.

Rushden players carried it out afterwards.

Flowers from Roberts's fiancee Lindsey Cowan spelled out the words "My Dale".

After his death she described him as the "love of my life".

Johnson, who wore a dark suit with a muffler against the bitter cold, appeared devastated afterwards.

The 23-year-old revealed a vest reading "RIP Dale" after scoring the winning goal in Manchester City's 1-0 Premiership win over Blackpool.

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Other players at the funeral included Middlesbrough stars David Wheater and Matthew Bates.

Roberts played in Boro's successful youth team.

Northamptonshire Police said Roberts's death was not being treated as suspicious.

Supporters put footballing rivalries aside before Rushden's derby game at Nene Park on Monday.

Both Rushden and Diamonds and Kettering Town fans laid flowers on the pitch and held a minute's silence in the goalkeeper's honour.