A FORMER Saints player has leapt to the defence of sacked Sky Sports pundit Andy Gray.

Gray's ex-Everton team-mate Peter Reid suspects his sacking may be linked to the fact he is pursuing legal action in relation to alleged phone-hacking.

Former England midfielder Reid, now the manager of Saints’ League One rivals Plymouth, admitted he was "very sad" for the presenter and believed his sacking was "unfair".

Gray was sacked by Sky on the basis of "unacceptable and offensive behaviour" today after footage emerged of the presenter appearing to make an inappropriate remark to a female colleague.

It came into the public domain two days after Gray was shown making controversial comments about assistant referee Sian Massey as he talked with fellow presenter Richard Keys.

Gray has gone to the High Court in an attempt to force private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to reveal which News of the World journalists asked him to hack into his phone.

The News of the World are a subsidiary of News Corporation, which owns a large stake in BSkyB and is seeking to purchase the whole company.

Gray's mobile number, password and pin were found in notebooks seized during a police raid on Mulcaire's home in 2006, the court heard last week.

Reid said: "It is very sad for Andy. The comments he made to Richard (Keys) were tongue-in-cheek and a joke and you can't do that nowadays, so it seems.

"Knowing Andy the way I do, it will be a big blow for him because he did enjoy his work. I thought personally, he was excellent at his job. It is a personal blow for him... I think it's unfair."

Reid, who had a short spell at The Dell in 1993, added: "He has got lawyers involved with the phone-hacking at News International. I did think of linking the two things.

"The comments weren't great, but I think it was a joke and I have got a feeling they might be linked in some way.

"You can't have a joke nowadays. The assistant referee on the day did a good job and there's no room for sexism, but it was a joke.

"There's double entendres, there's laughs, but nowadays in a politically correct society, everyone goes raving mad if you are having a laugh. If you offend somebody, fair do's - apologise.

"But we can all make mistakes."