FORMER Southend United physio Buster Footman has died at the age of 81.

Buster was a popular figure while at Roots Hall during the 1980s.

And Glenn Pennyfather - who worked with Buster at both Blues and Bristol City - described him as 'a one in a million'.

"Buster was fantastic to me and he was such a lovely man," said Pennyfather.

"He was helpful and kind and would do anything for anyone. He was a one in million man really so it's such a sad loss.

"He was a real character and he would always go swimming on Southend sea front on Christmas Day even if there was ice on top of the water "He was just a diamond and was great to me at Bristol City too.

"He invited me round for dinner with his missus and it's a very sad day to have lost him."

Paul Clark also worked closely alongside Buster during his own lengthy spells with the Shrimpers.

And Clark could also not speak highly enough of Blues' former physio.

"He was the absolute salt of the earth and was as honest as the day is long," said Clark.

"He was a real gentleman and could never do enough to help you. He was also as tough as iron on the inside but he was proper tough so he didn't need to shout about it.

"He was nice to everybody and he had the best work ethic of anyone I've ever come across. He was the first in and the last out and would drive to players' houses on a Sunday to treat them and make it easier for them.

"But he was nobody's fool."

And Clark recalls one particular incident where that was proven.

"We were training at Gloucester Park and everyone had to be there at 10am," said Clark.

"At about 9.45 I got a phone call from a player who was living in Colchester saying he had broken down just by his house and was waiting for the AA.

"But Buster heard all this and said he would come and pick him up.

"I put the phone down and about five minutes the phone went again and the player admitted he was too hungover to drive.

"I looked over at Buster who was just laughing into his cup of tea as if to say I got you so you could definitely never pull the wool over his eyes.”

Buster, who was a former Royal Marine, raised more than £100,000 for armed forces charities including the Royal British Legion and the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

And he was also highly rated as a physio, something ex Shrimpers midfielder Martin Ling could vouch for.

“Buster saved my career,” said Ling.

“I got a nasty elbow which led to seven fractures in my forehead at Wrexham and he helped me so much.

“He made sure I saw all the right people and he came to see me every single day when I was in hospital.

“He got me through it all and I was back playing six months later.

“He was a big part of our successful period.”