TRIBUTES have been paid to "gentleman and legend" John Shuker after the Oxford United great died last night.

The 77-year-old grew up in Manchester but spent most of his life in Oxfordshire after joining the U's in 1960.

He went on to become the club's highest appearance maker in the Football League, playing in 534 games across 15 years.

Ron Atkinson, who previously held the record, had plenty of good memories of his former teammate.

He said: "I can’t remember Shukes falling out with anybody. He was a popular guy.

"As a player he was Mr Versatility. I’m not sure if his best position was left back, left midfield or as a striker.

"When Ron Saunders came and we were fighting for survival he played him and Ken Skeen up front and made them run all day."

Remarkably, his career as a one-club man almost ended before it had truly got off the ground.

Atkinson said: "The incredible story with him was that he was given a free transfer in his first year here. Not many people know that.

"At the end of the season we played Bury on the Thursday before the Cup final and Shukes had been told he could find another club because we were letting him go.

"The night before that match, somebody dropped out and so they put him in and he had a blinder.

"He stayed and they gave him a new contract. He then went on to play 500-odd games.

"It’s amazing really that he nearly wasn’t here. It was only a twist of fate that ensured he was.

"To play that amount of games is staggering. I can’t remember him getting injured."

Although his last game for the U's came in 1977, Shuker retained close ties with the club.

In October he was due to attend a game at the Kassam Stadium as guest of honour, but had to pull out through ill health.

Peter Rhoades-Brown, who got to know Shuker while working in a variety of roles at United, said: "He loved the club so much and would come to a lot of the Manor Club lunches we held.

"He was the nicest guy. People use the words gentleman and legend too often, but John Shuker definitely fitted the bill.

"He had time for everybody and was always smiling."

Veteran broadcaster and U's supporter Jim Rosenthal tweeted: "One of Oxford United’s finest...versatile and dependable...Condolences to family and friends...RIP"

United will pay tribute to Shuker on Saturday, when they host Hartlepool United in the Emirates FA Cup.

The club are also planning to hold a minute's silence as a memorial for all those connected with the club who have died in 2019.

To add someone to the tribute in the programme and on the scoreboard, send their name and age to