LEGENDARY Cherries defender Laurence ‘Laurie’ Cunningham died peacefully at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital on Thursday, October 3, aged 91.

The right-back made 285 appearances for Bournemouth & Boscombe over eight years, among the most of any player, missing just five league games in four seasons between 1948-52.

Born in Consett, County Durham, on October 20, 1921, Mr Cunningham grew up locally and went to Broome School. He played for his local team in the North East League and, in 1939, had a three-month trial for Huddersfield but was not retained, which he described as one of his biggest disappointments.

During the Second World War, he signed up with the RAF as a night fighter pilot in 151 Squadron, flying Mosquitoes out of RAF Predannack in Cornwall over France and occupied Europe.

He later joked that he had an arrangement with the Luftwaffe: “If they don’t shoot me, I won’t shoot them.”

It was in Cornwall that he met his future wife Margaret, whose previous fiancé had died at sea just weeks before their wedding. The pair met up again just after VE Day and were married on February 5, 1946.

They had two children, Susan and Peter and, in 1945, Mr Cunningham returned to professional football at Consett, but was signed by Barnsley for £1,000 within a few months, despite saying he would have played for them for nothing.

Just three years later, he was brought south to Boscombe by Cherries manager Harry Lowe.

There he formed an effective defensive partnership with Ian Drummond and played for Cherries in the FA Cup third round ties against holders Manchester United in 1948/49 and West Bromwich Albion in 1954/55.

The former of these, a 6-0 loss played in front of more than 55,000 people at Manchester City’s ground, he felt was his most memorable match.

During his long career, the worst injury he sustained was a slight twisted ankle.

He subsequently played for Dorchester Town and Wareham Rangers, where he was player-manager, before returning to Cherries to coach the club’s A team during Bill McGarry’s reign.

He started his newsagents L. Cunningham, in Bennett Road, in 1949 while still a footballer and ran the business for 40 years until his retirement.

He enjoyed playing golf with old team-mates including Cliff Marsh, Freddie Wilson and Billy Lunn, and with his son Peter, who later turned pro, in the Daily Echo’s golf team.

Margaret died in 2008, aged 88, but during their life the pair enjoyed travelling and a day at the races. They had four grandchildren, Helen, Jane, David and Sarah.

Asked in the 1980s if he had any advice for young players, Mr Cunningham said: “As in life, the harder you work, the better you will get on.”

The funeral service will be held at Bournemouth Crematorium on Monday, October 14, at 11.30am.