TRIBUTES have been paid to a "larger than life" footballer who died in hospital after a short battle with pneumonia.
Hartlepool United legend Tony Parry was Brian Clough's first signing for the club back in 1965 and one of the club's first ever black players.
Tony, who was a powerful wing-half at Victoria Park, was rushed to hospital in the early hours of Saturday suffering from pneumonia.
The fans' favourite, who was living in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, died at 9.30am on Monday at hospital in Burton, aged 64.
The Mail has opened a book of condolence for Tony Parry. Click to add your message of sympathy
Tony, who later went on to play for Clough at Derby County – a deal which effectively prevented Pools from folding – was a regular visitor to town and watched the 1-0 win against Leyton Orient on Saturday, November 14.
Friends and former team mates have paid tribute to the dad-of-five, who was player of the year in the club's first promotion season in 1967-68.
Club spokesman Mark Simpson said: "Everyone at the club was terribly shocked to hear the tragic news. Tony was a legend to the supporters of his era and remained popular with the current fans.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this extremely sad time."
Former Pools goalkeeper Ken Simpkins, who also played up front, was Tony's best man at his first wedding.
The 65-year-old, who now lives on the Headland, said: "We shared digs together in Elwick Road and became great friends. Tony was a decent player in his day, popular among the players and we will all miss him."
Former midfielder Cliff Wright, 65, who played for Pools between 1964 and 1970, said: "He was one of my best friends, a genuine, good hearted lad that cheered everybody up every day. I met up with him just last week and he looked well. I was devastated when I heard the news."
Ex-Pools midfielder John McGovern, 60, who played 76 games scoring seven goals before joining Clough at Leeds and Nottingham Forest, said: "As a young player at Hartlepool, Tony was one of the players that taught me a lot and I will always be very grateful for that."
Paul Gough, of Goffy Media, who recently worked with Tony at a series of charity events, added: "He loved Hartlepool and he always said he would have moved back here, but he had family commitments in the Midlands. Tony was a very popular, larger than life, character."
Tony, who used to live in Sheriff Street and Rodney Street, had three children in town and two who now live in the Midlands.
Hartlepool United have confirmed that a one minute silence will be held before the League One clash with Southampton tonight.