Coronation Street's Bruce Jones has paid tribute to 'brilliant' Johnny Briggs as he dies following a long illness

CORONATION Street's Bruce Jones has paid tribute to Johnny Briggs after his death, saying "we’ve lost a TV legend".

The Les Battersby actor exclusively told The Sun he was deeply saddened by the news that Johnny had passed away.

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He said: “I'm so sorry to hear my good friend Johnny Briggs has passed away today. All my thoughts go out to his family.

“I will always remember the good times we had working together, and the times we spent together in our free time away from the show.

“A brilliant actor and a wonderful friend. God bless you Johnny."

While Kevin Kennedy, who played Curly Watts in the soap, told us: “Johnny Briggs was a nice guy and absolutely fascinating when he told stories of his extensive film career – sleep well buddy.”

Johnny, who played Mike Baldwin for 30 years, died with his family by his side.

In a statement they said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father, Johnny Briggs.

“He passed away peacefully this morning after a long illness, with family by his side.  He was 85.

“We politely ask for privacy at this time, so that we can quietly grieve as a family and remember the wonderful times we had with him. Thank you."

Johnny joined the soap in 1976 and went on to appear in 2,349 episodes before he left the show in 2006.

His character, Mike, had been suffering with Alzheimer's for months and collapsed in the street after a heart attack, dying in the arms of Ken.

Father-of-six Johnny was married twice, to Caroline Sinclair from 1961 to 1975 and Christine Allsop from 1977 to 2006.

The keen golfer split his time between a home in Portishead, North Somerset, UK, and a house in Florida.

The love triangle between Mike, Ken and Deirdre rumbled on for years and proved a huge ratings winner for Corrie.

When an episode aired featuring Deirdre ending her relationship with Mike and returned to Ken it was became one of the soap's highest rated installments.

It was such big news that it was announced on the Old Trafford scoreboard during a Manchester United v Arsenal match, with the words "Ken and Deirdre reunited. Ken 1 – Mike 0" resulting in cheers from the spectators.

Johnny left Corrie saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and playing golf in America's sunshine state. He always said he hated British summers as he suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

His departure led to an increased profile on the show for a new character, his nephew Danny, played by Bradley Walsh.

When Johnny left Corrie his two-year contract had just expired and he turned down another £200,000 a year deal.

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