HUNDREDS of mourners attended the funeral yesterday of a true legend of North-East sport.

John Martin Watson, of Shildon, County Durham, known by most as Jack, was passionate about local sport and was a respected football scout for five decades.

About 300 family and friends – many from the worlds of football and cricket – packed Neville Parade Methodist Church, in Newton Aycliffe, to celebrate his life.

Born in High Spen, near Gateshead, Mr Watson completed national service with the RAF.

While posted in Canada he met and married his wife, Ruth, in 1944 and they settled in Ashington, Northumberland, where their son, Ian, was born.

He worked as a Northumberland police officer before moving to Shildon where he was fire and security officer at the British Rail wagon works.

He was a talented cricketer and played for 60 years at clubs across the region, representing the Minor Counties many times.

Sam Stoker, of Durham County Cricket Club Former Players Association, said: “In his 90 years of life he put in about 200 years of activity, especially in sport.

“Jack lived for football in winter and cricket in summer.

“In both sports hundreds of young people came under his fatherly influence.”

During a long football scouting career Mr Watson worked with Carlisle, Darlington, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

It was with the Teessiders that he had the closest ties and where he headed the scouting team for current boss and friend Tony Mowbray, who was at yesterday’s service. The Reverend Graham Morgan said that Mr Watson and his late wife loved their family, including grandchildren Naomi and Simon.

His brother, Laurie, was unable to attend yesterday due to ill health.

He said that Mr Watson had missed Ruth when she died but family, friends and his overwhelming love of sport carried him through until he passed away on March 10, aged 90.

He added: “He was a good, honest man, certainly forthright. And he was always keen to see young players meet their potential.”

Jim Platt, a former Darlington manager and Middlesbrough and Northern Ireland goalkeeper, said: “He was a man of strong principles, he was trustworthy.

“A couple of years ago he said he wished Tony Mowbray would get the manager’s job at Boro, he could work alongside him then he would die happy.

“He lived a long and eventful life and he did die happy.”