THE family of a Halesowen footballer who played for Aston Villa have spoken at their "devastation" at not being able to give him the "send off he deserves" due to coronavirus restrictions.

William Hunt played for Aston Villa in the 1950s.

The talented right back also played for Halesowen Town, Bromsgrove Town and Worcester County alongside the legendary Duncan Edwards.

Mr Hunt, of Highfield Lane, died aged 86, in Russells Hall Hospital on Sunday January 24 with only a nurse by his side, after testing positive for coronavirus.

Mourners at the funeral at St John's Church in Halesowen and Stourbridge Crematorium on Tuesday February 23, have to be limited to 30 and must also be socially distanced.

William's grandson Neil Slater, aged 43, of Long Mynd, Halesowen, said: "We're devastated we can't give him the send-off he deserves.

"This great man passed away with only a nurse by his side, and due to this horrific virus we cannot even as a family see him at rest, dress him in his Villa shirt as he wished, or even carry his coffin.

"We can only have 30 people at the funeral, which is very hard especially as he was so well known around Halesowen and the people he used to play football with as well as his army friends.

"The impact covid has had on the end of his life has been heartbreaking."

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Neil, a married civil servant and father-of-one, (pictured above right with his grandad and brother Matthew), added: "We are just one family out of thousands not being able to have the funeral they want and grieve for their relatives as they want to.

"We wanted to have grandad spend his last days at home surrounded by family and we were robbed of that because of this virus and that's something we will never get over."

William, who was born in King Street, Halesowen, played for Villa from 1953 - 1955. When a reserve he would play for other clubs including Halesowen Town.

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He married his sweetheart Rose Hunt in May 1954 and the couple (pictured below) bought their house in Highfield Lane with the £10 a month he earned from Villa.

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Neil said: "That was quite a significant sum back then and it enabled him to buy the house in Highfield Lane which nan had set her heart on."

In 1955 William left Aston Villa to do national service with the army and was stationed in Germany for two years. He was part of the 3rd (The King's Own) Hussars transport troops.

Afterwards William worked for Rover at Longbridge until he retired in the mid 80s.

Sadly Rose died from a brain tumour in 2009. The couple leave three children Linda Slater, Rocky Hunt and Wayne Hunt, all in their 60s as well as six grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

William suffered from ill health in his later years including damage to his veins caused during his football playing days before players wore shin pads.

He had three toes amputated from his right foot and three years ago his left leg was amputated below the knee.

He also fought off bowel cancer and was diagnosed with dementia around 12 months ago.

The family said although William had tested positive for coronavirus, it was not the cause of his death, with vascular dementia and frailty of old age listed on the death certificate. 

Neil paid tribute to his grandfather saying: "He was old fashioned and traditional, a very family-orientated man who lived for football, his wife and his family."