SOUTHAMPTON are set to name former Blackburn Rovers chairman John Williams as the club’s new chief executive.

Williams departed Rovers in February 2011 after controversially finding himself surplus to requirements under new owners Venky’s.

He has since worked for Manchester City but left the Etihad last year and has been chairman of the referees body, the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL).

Williams, 64, is believed to be the main candidate being considered by Southampton’s owner Katharina Liebherr.

Liebherr took on the role of chairperson at Southampton last week following the departure of Nicola Cortese, but is keen to bring in a chief executive.

Williams is a lifelong Southampton fan, having been born and raised in the area, and is said to be willing to take on the role.

The news of Williams’ potential appointment has been received positively on the south coast.

Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier said: “John Williams has got a fantastic reputation in the game.

“I spoke to a few people in Blackburn and not one person had a bad word to say about him.

“If we could get him, I think that would be a fantastic appointment.”

Williams was Rovers chief executive and then chairman between 1997 and 2011, when he helped the club to a decade in the Premier League and Worthington Cup success.

But, to the dismay of supporters, he was cut out of key decision making after Venky’s took over the club in November 2010.

Williams was unhappy with the decision to sack manager Sam Allardyce and left just over a month later, feeling deeply frustrated at his decreasing role at the club.

He was popular with players and staff at Ewood Park, with former Rovers keeper Brad Friedel full of praise.

“While John Williams was with Blackburn, he did an impeccable, flawless job and I honestly don’t think anyone could have duplicated what he did,” Friedel said.

“John will have to go down very, very high up in the club’s history.

“In fact, I would put him up there with the club greats and only a little bit under Jack Walker.

“John was Jack’s right-hand man and his contribution can never be forgotten.”