Scores of mourners paid their final respects to a Brighton and Hove Albion stalwart today.

Friends, family and colleagues of Frankie Howard packed into the chapel at Woodvale Crematorium in Bear Road, Brighton, for the funeral of the former winger and long-serving groundsman of the club.

Among them were past and present Albion players, manager Dean Wilkins and chairman Dick Knight.

Mr Howard played 219 games for the Seagulls during the 1950s and scored 31 goals.

He was known as an exciting player and one of the most loved in a successful team.

He retired from playing aged 28 because of torn knee ligaments but went on to became a popular and prominent figure as the club's groundsman, looking after the pitch at the Goldstone Ground in Hove from 1962 to 1993.

In tributes friends spoke of how much pride he had in his work and how he made the pitch one of the best in Britain.

Mr Howard died after a short illness on October 11 at the age of 76.

Around 150 people attended the service, with another 100 waiting outside the chapel.

Albion's commercial manager, Kevin Keehan, said: "It was a non-religious service which spoke of Frankie's life and times.

"There were not less than 50 former Albion players from the early 1950s to the present day.

"The family asked for donations rather than flowers and it was a great turn out for him."

Mr Howard lived in Brighton with his wife Barbara. The couple had two sons, Russell and Adrian.

Friends and fans have been paying tribute to him on The Argus website.

Chris Joliffe, from Lancashire, said: "I'll always remember him for his great sense of humour, he had a smile and a word for everyone win or lose."

David, from Bristol, said: "A true legend. I think it's important that a memorial to Frankie is erected at Falmer, as this man is part of the club's great history through good times and bad."

Ray Wood wrote: "All the best Frank, you were a diamond."

Pete Trott said: "A great servant to Brighton and Hove Albion he deserves a stand named after him at Falmer."

Ian McKechnie, from Portland in the USA, said: "I recall the glory days of Frankie Howard making those wonderful bursts down the left wing.

"I remember going to one mid-week game at the Goldstone at that time when there were 34,000 present. Frankie and that team were wonderful inspirations to young football fans."

Albion's players wore black armbands during their 1-0 victory away at Port Vale last weekend in memory of Mr Howard and dedicated the result to him.

There will be a minute's appreciation for him before the club's match against Leeds United at the Withdean Stadium tomorrow.