HE is the tough tackling hardman famed for his dogged defensive displays on the football pitch.

Former Saints legend’s Jim Steele’s prowess inspired his team’s shock FA Cup Final win over Manchester United in 1976.

Now the footballing legend is turning his hand to a new challenge – winning back a New Forest pub.

The veteran Scottish international is weighing up the chance to take on the boarded up White Horse pub in Netley Marsh.

Daily Echo:

Punters were left shellshocked when the watering hole mysteriously closed earlier this month.

They arrived to find a message attached to the window written by former landlord Duncan Owers revealing he was closing his doors for good.

Pub owners Enterprise Inns said they are actively recruiting for a new publican and deny grocery giant Tesco are planning to develop the site.

Mr Steele said he is interested in managing, rather than buying the pub, but is yet to make a final decision.

He said: “I need to talk to the owners and see what’s going on but I just hate to see all these pubs shutting down. They are closing all over the place – it’s crazy.

Daily Echo:

“They are vital to village life yet they are dying a death – what are people going to do – drink at home?”

He said he may even call on former Saints manager Lawrie McMenemy and teammates Mark Dennis and Jimmy Case if he eventually hosts events there and added: “I’m nearly 64 but I am fit as a fiddle and we all support each other.”

Jim, who lives in West End, previously ran The Black Bear in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, but resigned after his wife Gill Smith had an operation.

He has also helped run Eastleigh Irish Club.

Netley Marsh’s nearest pub is now The Gamekeeper in Woodlands Road and two others are within two miles.

Totton North ward UKIP councillor Chris Lagdon said it is “fantastic news” and added: “The closure is a big loss to the community and hopefully someone of his calibre will bring new custom there.

“If it’s a decent pub selling decent food it will be good.”

Netley Marsh parish councillor Les Puttock said: “It’s always much better to have a pub open rather than remaining closed.

“But whoever takes over will have to do something a bit different with it to encourage people to come in.”

n Turn to page 56 to hear what Jim thinks of Cortese’s shock departure