GEORGE CURTIS, one of Saints' finest post-war players, has died in Essex. He was 85.

The skilful, elegant midfield player was the creative force in a Saints side which narrowly missed promotion to the top flight three years running between 1947 and 1950.

The Orsett-born Curtis was discovered by Arsenal just before the Second World War and moved to The Dell in 1947 with Saints' popular centre-forward Don Roper moving the other way to Highbury.

Curtis was valued at £10,000 - a hefty price-tag in those early post-war years - and he more than justified his valuation by becoming the chief architect in one of Southampton's finest teams.

He played alongside the likes of Ted Bates and Charlie Wayman, a prolific goalscorer who owed much to the clever and resourceful play of Curtis, who made over 170 league appearances for Saints and scored 11 goals.

When his playing career finished, Curtis went into management.

Ironically, he was in charge of Norwegian club Rosenborg when they gave Saints their first taste of European football in 1968.

Curtis spent the last years of his life living alone in a Chelmsford trailer park.