FORMER Blackburn Rovers legend Fred Pickering has died, aged 78.

Pickering, who started his career at his home town club in 1959 as a defender, but became a goal-scoring forward, died on Saturday morning.

The father-of-three scored 61 goals in 134 matches during two spells at the club.

Hundreds of tributes were left on social media, highlighting the former England international's personality and playing style.

Former team-mate Bryan Douglas, said he was just as good as former Rovers star Alan Shearer.

He said: “He was a good all-round sportsman. He excelled at all ball games.

“He came through the ranks. He started as a full-back, but at centre forward he was sensational and I was sorry to see him leave and go to Everton.

“I enjoyed his football while he was here - him and Andy McEvoy were dynamite.

“I’m so sorry to see he’s passed away.”

Everton smashed the British domestic transfer record when they paid Rovers £85,000 for him in 1964.

A Blackburn Rovers Community Trust spokesman said: “We’re very sorry to hear that former Rovers and England forward Fred Pickering has died.

“He was a great footballer who will go down in history as an Ewood Park icon. 

“Our deepest sympathy to his close family and friends at this sad time.”

After playing for Birmingham and Blackpool, he returned to Blackburn Rovers for one season, making 11 appearances and scoring two goals.

Blackburn Rovers Former Players Association tweeted: “So sad to hear that ex-Rovers centre forward Fred Pickering has sadly passed away.  Our thoughts are with his family.”

Pickering scored five goals in three games for England in 1964, and bagged a hat-trick on his debut in a 10-0 victory against the USA.

Nicknamed ‘Boomer’ for his powerful right foot, he looked set for inclusion in the 1966 World Cup England squad, having been named in Sir Alf Ramsey’s provisional line-up, until he suffered a knee injury in the FA Cup quarter final replay against Manchester City forcing his withdrawal.