A FORMER Saints and England footballer - long considered one of the club's all time greats - has died, aged 91.

Bill Ellerington, rated by club legends as one of the finest right backs to ever play for Southampton, passed away over the Easter weekend.

He gave over 30 years of service to the club, in a variety of roles.

The late Ted Bates chose him in his all-time Saints XI, while honorary club president Terry Paine endorses the view.

“He was one of the best right-backs the club has ever had,” Paine told the Daily Echo.

Born in the town in 1923, Ellerington signed full-time for Saints in 1945 and went on to make 238 first-team appearances, up until 1956, and was twice capped for England.

His form was so good that it prompted Alf Ramsey, unable to get a place in the team, to leave for Tottenham in 1949.

“Very strong. Accurate right foot. A good positional sense. Read the game well,” was how Bates described him.

After relinquishing his place in the first-team, Ellerington became player-coach of the 'A' side, while he had already begun to take up some scouting duties.

He became something of a role model to the club's youngsters, such as Terry Simpson, who was in awe of his kicking ability.

“The finest. No effort. Beautiful, like a golf swing,” said Simpson in Dell Diamond, the book chronicling Bates' 66 seasons with Saints.

Bates remains arguably the most important individual in the club's history, but Ellerington's contribution to his work was incredibly valuable, notably as a scout.

According to Paine, no one has ever had a sharper eye than Ellerington.

“I always said Bill was the best judge of a player I ever came across,” said Paine, who would call Ellerington to ask for advice on players when he joined Hereford as player-coach alongside manager John Sillett.

“The players he recommended to Ted who came to the club were really first-class.”

Among them were stars such as George O'Brien and Cliff Huxford. In 1964, Ellerington also scouted a 15-year-old inside-right forward, by the name of Mick Channon, playing for the Wiltshire Schools team against Hampshire.

His recommendation to Bates - “he always attacked the defender by running at them with the ball. I knew, as a defender, that they hate that” - would lead to Saints pinching the youngster from under the noses of Swindon.

Yet Ellerington refutes any suggestion that he “found” or “discovered” the club's greatest ever goalscorer.

“Nobody finds a player,” he said in Tie a Yellow Ribbon, the book detailing how Saints won the 1976 FA Cup. “There are always people watching. Anyone who claims to have discovered a player is lying, because all the scouts talk to each other.”

Regardless, Ellerington's role was clearly vital. So too, according to Channon, was the scouting mission he conducted on Saints' opponents before the '76 final. Ellerington and Bates “watched United so much we knew what they had for breakfast.”

“The greatest piece of tactical scouting I have ever known,” said Channon in his autobiography.

Ellerington's time at Saints came to an end in 1980, aged 57, following a Lawrie McMenemy reshuffle. A stroke in 2008 led to him disappearing further from the public eye.

However, Ellerington remained in Southampton until his death on Saturday, with his wife Ros, and was an ardent supporter of the club until the very end.