SAINTS officials have pledged to hold crisis talks with the Ted Bates Trust after hundreds of supporters condemned the £112,000 statue of the club stalwart.

Since being unveiled outside St Mary's on Saturday night, scores of fans have flooded the Daily Echo website saying the 16ft statue is out of proportion and does not bear a strong enough resemblance to Bates, who gave the club 66 years of unbroken service.

Critics have likened the statue to 80s TV entertainer Jimmy Krankie, US president George Bush and even former Pompey owner Milan Mandaric. Representatives of the Ted Bates Trust, which commissioned the project, gave up countless hours to raise money towards the statue, which was sculpted by Saints fan Ian Brennan.

The final £10,000 was raised at an unveiling dinner on Saturday night attended by more than 450 guests and 30 former players.

After approaching Saints for help the club have agreed to meet with the Trust in the near future to see how the problem can be resolved.

Mr Brennan, who spent 18 months sculpting the statue before it was completed at the Bronze Age Sculpture Casting Foundry in London, said: "This was more than a commission, it was a passion. I am a Saints fan through and through and I am very sorry a number of supporters do not like the end result and I would be very happy to work with the Trust and club to resolve any issues."

Speaking on behalf of the Bates family, Ted's daughter Jackie said: "Dad's statue represents an artists impression of Ted. It was commissioned by the Trust with the club's support and if they feel it needs to be removed for further work, then we are perfectly happy for this to happen."

Mary Bates, the widow of the man known as Mr Southampton, unveiled the £112,000 statue on Saturday night in front of other family members, former players, club officials and fans.

Dave Ford, chairman of the Ted Bates Trust, which commissioned the project and shared the cost with the club, said: "Ian has done a tremendous job. It's very rare I'm lost for words but I saw the statue last week and it's awesome - a tremendous tribute to a great man.

"Fans have waited a long time for this and it's fantastic."

Ted Bates served Southampton FC for 66 years in several guises before his death in November 2003, at the age of 85.

He signed for the club as a teenage striker 60 years ago and formed a prolific partnership with Charlie Wayman before becoming a coach when his playing career ended in 1952.

Ted managed the club for 18 years before handing the reins to Lawrie McMenemy in 1973, but spent a further 20 years as a club director before stepping down in 1993.

In 1998, he received an MBE in recognition of his services to football and was made club president before being made a Freeman of the City of Southampton a year later.