An Appreciation: Bryn Elliott

By SFC Media Thu 21 Feb Club

Club historians David Bull and Duncan Holley remember Bryn Elliott, who has died aged 93.

At an ex-Saints function in 2012, Bryn Elliott was in sparkling form as the senior member, at 86 years old, of a Q&A panel.

Asked by fellow-panellist Matthew Le Tissier: "What was it like to play through a World War?" Bryn retorted, quick as a flash: "Which one?"

We fans won’t often hear Matt out-quipped, but Bryn enjoyed a special reputation for the humour he had brought to Southampton FC, since his arrival in October 1949.

More of that in a moment, but there was nothing funny for Bryn about his experiences in the Second World War.

Born in Nottingham in 1925, he enlisted in the Royal Signals in 1943. Serving at Catterick as a dispatch-rider, he played 34 times for his hometown club Forest in war-time competitions before he was posted to India.

Stationed at Mhow in central India, serving as a Physical Training Instructor (PTI), he never saw any action.

He was lucky to come home superficially unscathed to marry Sheila, the pen-pal who had been urged by a colleague in Nottingham to write to this young PTI in India.

But Bryn had been so affected by the heat in his two years away that it took him another two years to re-acclimatise, as he returned to the City Ground with “lost time” to make up.

Bryn never managed to do that: after 10 Second Division appearances, he left for non-league Boston United, but was soon brought back to Division Two by Southampton, where his virtues, at wing-half, were described in the club’s handbook as "enthusiasm combined with forceful and tenacious tackling.” Remarkably, he never sustained a serious injury.

He made his debut in February 1950, but would play only twice in that 1949/50 season, when goal average denied Southampton promotion. 

In each of the next two seasons, he would make 20-odd appearances, but then came 1952/53, when he missed only one game.

This was a watershed season. An unchanged side would have a stirring cup run that ended in a fifth-round replay at The Dell vs Blackpool, who were on their way to the legendary “Matthews Final”. 

Yet, despite a few high-spots, including a last-day win at Forest, Saints would be relegated. Bryn’s remaining League career would be in the third tier. 

In his final first-team season of 1957/58, he brought his Saints appearances to 251, in which he scored twice. 

Failing to get a game in 1958/59, he joined Southern League Poole Town, along with Pat Parker and Barry Hillier.

In his retirement, Sheila and he ran an off-licence in Waterloo Road for more than 40 years. An all-round sportsman, he kept fit playing tennis, squash and badminton.

Until restricted by osteo-arthritis in his final two years, he kept his eye in at Stoneham Golf Club, where he’d played off a four handicap in his time. 

Terry Paine, who was the new kid in the team during Bryn’s final season, always spoke fondly of Bryn. He still does. He e-mailed us upon hearing of Bryn’s death to reminisce about him, both as a player and as the dressing-room comedian. 

On the pitch, “his strengths were being able to win the ball and his mobility off the ball” Terry says, while his jokes were “good for morale, whether at training during the week or on matchdays, no more so than when the off-licence was robbed. 

“He arrived at training, the next morning, with a huge bandage wrapped around his head, smothered with tomato ketchup, protesting that he had done his best but there were six of them.”

BERNARD HARRY ELLIOTT
3rd May 1925 - 15th February 2019

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