Today is a beautiful Spring day. The birds are singing, lawns are being mown, leaves are appearing on the trees and God is in his, or her, heaven. So why does today remind me of falling leaves? Well, I heard the sad news that yet another of my boyhood heroes has passed away and there have been a growing number of them falling in recent times - Derek Shackleton, Bernard Hedges, Brian Langford, Sir Bobby Robson (another ex-Saint) and the list goes on. Now I imagine it`s inevitable that as you grow older you become more and more aware of people passing and I`m just grateful I`m not one of them. Each week I buy the Kent Messenger newspaper, read the obituary column (something else that people of a certain age tend to do) and if my name isn`t in there, then I just carry optimistically on.
Bill Ellerington left us over Easter, aged 91. He was arguable the most elegant footballer ever to play for Southampton, his home town club, - he never seemed to kick the ball, always stroked it, like a golfer would. He played right back in the days when teams had right backs and he was so accomplished that he kept a certain Alf Ramsay out of the team to the extent that Ramsay upped sticks and moved to Tottenham.
Bill played 238 timed for the Saints and twice for England and he was in the team when my Dad took me to my first ever Saints game at The Dell in April 1946. That was an awe inspiring experience for a six year old emerging from the war years and the long day included a ferry ride from our home in Hythe on Southampton Water to Town Quay and a long walk to The Dell. I remember being passed down to the front of the packed stand where, with the other small boys, I watched what I could see of the game through the railings. That day the Saints beat Derby County 4-2 and, as well as Bill Ellerington, I had my first glimpse of other Saints legends such as Eric Webber, Don Roper and the wonderful Ted Bates.
Ted Bates is rightly remembered not only as a player, a captain and a manager but also as President of the club and his bronze statue beams down at us from its place of honour outside the main entrance to St. Mary`s Stadium. I doubt there will be a statue to Bill Ellerington but the football club he represented with such dignity has already paid fulsome tribute to one of its great servants and Saints fans everywhere will, like me, mourn his passing but be grateful for the privilege of having seen him play. I`m not sure they make `em like that any more.