IT was a fitting tribute to a brave fight and a lot of hard work.

Football legend Alan Ball opened a new laboratory in Southampton in honour of 1970s Saints player Steve Mills.

The 1966 England World Cup winner joined Steve's widow Jo Hill to officially open the Steve Mills Stem Cell Laboratory at its new location at the National Blood Service in Southamp-ton.

The day also marked the 20th anniversary of the Steve Mills Fund for Leukaemia.

In 1986 at the age of 31, Steve developed acute myeloid leukaemia. He died two years later. Before his death, he and Jo began fundraising with Southampton Football Club and the public to raise funds for a stem cell lab.

This work led to the opening of a laboratory at the Royal South Hants Hospital in 1989, however, due to the growth of the work carried out by the lab, it was moved to NBS base at Southampton General Hospital.

As reported in yesterday's Daily Echo, countless lives have been saved and the fund has continued to pump hundreds of thousands of pounds into crucial research.

Jo added: "Today is very special. Over the past 20 years the labs work has grown such a lot and I think it is a great chance to show people what we have achieved with their help. It's fantastic to see just how much the laboratory has achieved over the years and that its huge success has driven the need for a much larger laboratory."

Alan Ball said: "I feel very humble seeing all the hard work that so many people have put in to getting this work done over so many years. Stevie would feel so proud to see the progress made."

The lab supports treatment of leukaemia and other cancers through the preparation and storage of blood and bone marrow stem cells for future transplantation.