Tributes have been paid to Saints legend Ron Davies.

The former Dell striker passed away in hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last Friday, a day short of his 71st birthday.

Davies was born in the Welsh town of Holywell and got his first big break in football for Chester before moves to Luton and Norwich paved the way for him to join Saints for a then club record fee of £55,000 in August 1966.

That was the start of seven historic seasons under the management of Ted Bates at The Dell.

Davies ended his first season, Saints’ first back in Division One after promotion, as the country’s highest goalscorer with 37 league goals, and 43 in total, outscoring the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Geoff Hurst, George Best and Denis Law.

In his first three campaigns with Saints he netted an incredible 85 goals in 119 top flight matches.

He became a hero to a generation of Saints fans, and was one of the most prolific strikers around.

Manchester Untied manager Matt Busby even reckoned him the best striker in Europe – he did once score four goals for Saints against United at Old Trafford.

Perhaps his most famous trait was his heading ability.

Many spoke of his uncanny knack of hanging in the air, and then powering home headers that were like thunderbolts.

Lawrie McMenemy, the club’s 1976 FA Cup winning manager, took over from Bates not long after Davies had departed.

“Unfortunately for me, Ron Davies had already gone to our rivals down the road before I arrived,” he said.

“That was a shame because in his prime he was the kind of player any manager would want in their team.

“He was well known throughout the game for being one of the best headers of a ball of any centre forward at the time – and believe me there were some very good ones around at that point.

“He had the ability to hang in the air and Ted Bates made sure he had two excellent wide men in Terry Paine and John Sydenham.

“Ted made sure there was the right balance in the team and they were able to provide Ron with the crosses he thrived on.”

By the time his Saints career ended in April 1973, Davies had assured himself a permanent place in the club’s history.

He had scored a total of 153 goals in 281 appearances. He still remains eighth in the list of Saints’ all time highest league goalscorers with 134.

As well as that Davies won 29 caps for Wales, 23 of them while at Saints, and became as well known amongst him teammates for his art work as well as his goals.

“Ron won more than 20 caps for Wales – and he started playing for the national side towards the end of the career of John Charles and that shows the quality of him,” said McMenemy.

“He was a big character and a top class centre forward and goalscorer.

“He was always a handful to the opposition and one every manager would like in his squad.

“One other thing about Ron was that he was a gifted artist.

“I regularly saw cartoons and caricatures around the place that Ron had done of his teammates when they were in the dressing room at The Dell, or with the physio or training.

“Older supporters will always remember him with fond memories.”

Davies departed The Dell for Portsmouth in 1973, before an ill fated spell at Manchester United.

He ended up moving to America to finish his playing career and, after a brief return to the UK and spells with local clubs such as the White Horse and AFC Totton, moved permanently to the USA to work as a coach.

He later set up home in a trailer park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he lived with his late wife Chris as he worked for a construction company.

Davies last hit the headlines in this country when a fundraising appeal was launched to help him pay for a hip operation.