SAINTS legend Franny Benali is set to bolster the Daily Echo's unrivalled Saints coverage, joining the team as a weekly columnist.

The highly-respected – and accomplished – former Southampton player will share his views, opinions and memories with Echo readers every Saturday.

Benali, 54, spent 16 years as a player at Saints between 1988 and 2004, making more than 350 appearances during that time.

He played alongside the likes of Matt Le Tisser, Claus Lundekvam, Jason Dodd and many more iconic Saints players.

Having joined the club as a youngster the now-retired fullback rounded off his Saints career with a substitute appearance against Bayern Munich in the Ted Bates trophy match.

Benali starts after fellow Saints legend Lawrie McMenemy, 87, penned his final column last week after more than two decades of writing for the newspaper and website.

Since retiring, Benali has become a prolific charity fundraiser, taking part in several physical challenges which have raised over a million pounds for cancer charities.

In 2020, Benali was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to UK cancer patients.

In addition to his charity and keynote speaking work, he has remained a key voice on Saints through his work as a pundit and co-commentator.

Daily Echo:

On joining the Echo's team, Benali noted: "I am so excited to get started in the role this week.

"It’s an absolute honour to be doing the column and sharing my views, opinions and memories with the Daily Echo’s readers.

“Clearly there is going to be a lot of focus on Saints. I can remember since I was a little boy that the Daily Echo has always been there.

“It’s a big thing for me and I can’t wait to get started. They are certainly big shoes to fill, Lawrie is a big man in every sense of the word.

“He’s someone who I have developed a close relationship with over the years and I still remain in contact with him to this day. To follow on from him is a real honour.

"He's a big name when it comes to Southampton Football Club to follow so I hope that I can do the column, which has become synonymous with him, the justice it deserves."

Editor Ben Fishwick added:  "I’m so pleased to bolster our unrivalled Saints coverage by adding Franny to our roster.

"Not only did he rise through the ranks to join the first team in 1988 and win plaudits for his on-pitch performance, he remains a community stalwart after ending his Saints career in 2004.

"I can’t wait to start reading Franny’s column – and I hope you all enjoy it too."

Read Franny's column every Saturday in the Echo - it's also available for digital subscribers on the website and app.