Tributes to 'one in a million' Sheffield Wednesday fan who died on football pitch
A football-mad Sheffield Wednesday fan who died on the pitch will be remembered for his 'infectious smile' and ability to make others laugh.
Ian Hemmingham, affectionately known as 'Milkshake' due to his insatiable appetite for the drink, was playing at the Sheffield Works Department Sports & Social Club (SWDCC) in Heeley when he collapsed and died after having a cardiac arrest.
Friends of the 38-year-old, who lived in Gleadless Valley, raised their glasses - filled with chocolate milkshake, naturally - at the club yesterday evening to a man described as 'one in a million'.
Ian, who had the rare genetic condition Noonan Syndrome and was cared for by the charity Mencap after both his parents died at a young age, played for numerous clubs in the South Yorkshire Ability Counts League.
He was competing for Derek Dooley FC against his former club City Knights FC on March 3 this year when he died suddenly.
The Owls donated a shirt for him to wear for his funeral at City Road Cemetery in April, where he was carried in to the strains of fans' anthem Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday, and hundreds of people attended his wake at the SWDCC clubhouse.
Dawn Wood, Ian's coach at Derek Dooley, described him as a 'loyal friend' who always knew how to pick others up when they were feeling down.
"Ian was funny, witty and loved to smile and laugh. He lived life to the full, had fun and would talk to anyone," she added.
"He taught me how being kind to others was more important than material possessions."
Ian's overriding passion was for football and the other disability teams he represented included SWFC, Liverpool and Doncaster Titans.
He was a regular at Owls fixtures, and one friend recalled how he used to pick up litter in return for a season ticket at Hillsborough.
Ian was also a keen boccia player, representing Sheffield Smashers, and loved watching wrestling and playing on the Xbox with friends.
However, it was for his love of Yazoo milkshakes he was best known, and friends recalled him turning up to games laden down with bottles of the drink to fuel him through matches.
Sharon Lavender, his coach at City Knights FC, said: "Milkshake was a great guy, who had an infectious smile and was full of life, full of fun and full of milkshake.
"He was an inspiration to us all by overcoming his disabilities through his abilities, and he had a real zest for life."
Michael Moxam and Tracey Smallwood, who had known Ian since they attended Loxley College together as teenagers, said: "He was so bubbly and it was impossible not to have fun when he was around."
AJ Wyatt said: "He was a class friend and really helped me when I needed him. He was the life and soul of the party and I used to go everywhere with him."
Darren Carter said: "Milkshake was one in a million. Wherever he went he was well loved, and Sheffield is an emptier place without him."