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Club ‘legend’ joins regional daily as columnist

A regional daily has signed up a long-serving former footballer from its patch as a new columnist.

Franny Benali, who made more than 350 appearances for Southampton between 1988 and 2004, is joining the Southern Daily Echo.

He takes over from former Saints manager Lawrie McMenemy, 87, who penned his final column last week after two decades of writing for the paper.

Benali, 54, played alongside the likes of Matt Le Tisser and Claus Lundekvam and has since become a prolific fundraiser, taking part in several physical challenges which have raised over a million pounds for cancer charities.

In 2020, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to UK cancer patients.

On joining the Echo’s team, he said: “It’s an absolute honour to be doing the column and sharing my views, opinions and memories with the Daily Echo’s readers.

“Clearly there is going to be a lot of focus on Saints. I can remember since I was a little boy that the Daily Echo has always been there.

“It’s a big thing for me and I can’t wait to get started. They are certainly big shoes to fill, Lawrie is a big man in every sense of the word.”

Editor Ben Fishwick added:  “I’m so pleased to bolster our unrivalled Saints coverage by adding Franny to our roster.

“Not only did he rise through the ranks to join the first team in 1988 and win plaudits for his on-pitch performance, he remains a community stalwart after ending his Saints career in 2004.

“I can’t wait to start reading Franny’s column – and I hope you all enjoy it too.”

As previously reported on HTFP, the Echo has bolstered its coverage of Southampton FC with the addition of a third football writer, despite the club being relegated last year.