COUNTLESS friends in the worlds of Rugby League and business are mourning the death of a popular personality who gave a lifetime of support to Saints.

Mr Joseph Pickavance, of Eccleston, died in Whiston Hospital aged 83. His wife Bessie passed away last year and he is survived by sons Joe and David, daughter Kathleen, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Affectionately known at Saints as 'Joe Pick' and 'the Godfather', he was a former haulage contractor who served as a director for many years and was chairman in 1989, with his main brief being ground improvements and maintenance.

Restoration work on all three stands, erection of crash barriers, building of new dressing rooms and executive boxes, plus the transformation of what was once a railway line into a car park were among Joe's considerable achievements.

Refurbishment on such a massive scale resulted in Knowsley Road's capacity being increased to 19,100, and it was a source of great satisfaction to Joe when the century-old ground was placed second only to the municipally-owned Don Valley stadium in 1995.

Official recognition of his labour-of-love came when Saints' chairman Eric Ashton presented him with a framed certificate which proudly hangs in the Joseph Pickavance conservatory at the Stanley Arms, Eccleston, where Kathleen is landlady.

Leading Saints out at Wembley in 1989 and seeing son Joe make the grade with Warrington, followed by grandson Ian wearing the red-and-white of Saints, were sources of great pride for Joe, who also enjoyed friendships with Tom Van Vollenhoven and Mike McClennan

As well as Rugby League, soccer, cricket, snooker, and golf loomed large in his sporting calendar in younger days while, as a lover of the turf, Joe owned racehorses including Grand National runner Permit and Quarry Bank, which was named after his home.

A self-made man and proud son of Peasley Cross, Joe began his working life as a coal-bagger with a lorry bought on hire purchase and, through sheer hard graft, owned more than 100 vehicles and plant when business was at its peak.

He remained a familiar figure at Saints after he retired from the board in 1997, and liked nothing better than a regular morning cuppa as he chewed over oval ball matters in former secretary Geoff Sutcliffe's office.

A funeral service for Mr Pickavance was held at Christ Church, Eccleston, where former police chief superintendent Max Woosey delivered a fascinating eulogy on Joe, a man who lived life to the full.

A minute's silence was observed before Saints' game against Wigan at Knowsley Road,