Vital Football

Len Phillips - a tribute

Len Phillips -  a tribute

The football world and the whole of Portsmouth in particular, today mourn one of its great players with the loss of Len Phillips.

Horace Leonard Phillips was born on 11th September 1922 in Shoreditch East London and he played schools football for Hackney Boys and got his first job aged 14 in a wine distillery. He was called up at the age of eighteen and joined the Royal Marines. On the sixth day of June 1944 he was one of the first ashore the Normandy beaches in the D Day landings.

His football career was late starting due to the war and it was then that Pompey manager Jack Tinn was tipped off about the talents Len possessed. he was signed on the 8th February 1946. He made his Pompey debut v Wolves at Fratton Park, in the War League South, three days after signing.

However he did not make his league debut until 28 December 1946 at Blackburn (Pompey won 1-0) and Len had to wait until 27 March 1948 to score his first goal at Aston Villa in only his eighth appearance. He would score twice more at Fratton Park when Middlesbrough visited three weeks later.

It was at the start of the season 1948/49 that a patient Len became a regular in the side and I will leave it to you to decide whether it is more than a coincidence that Pompey would go on to win the Football League Championship for the first time in their history. Len was to miss just two games that season and would score eleven goals from Inside Forward, wearing his number ten shirt for whish he became famous. That season every time Len scored Pompey won!!

I am often asked by younger fans surely Inside Forward and Midfield are the same thing aren`t they? The question is rather difficult to answer as football has changed so mush over the years with a move from 2-3-5 and the W formation in the forward line to Alf Ramsey`s 4-2-4 and then 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 and finally the Christmas Tree but yes is the answer I suppose but high scoring Inside Forwards were few and far between and Len`s average of one goal in five games stood out. Back in those full back and the half backs rarely or never scored goals unless they took penalties and it was the Centre Forward who banged in the goals.

The League title was won again in 1949/50 and Len again was a regular, playing thirty four league games with this campaign just five goals. Len was of course the schemer in the side and it was left to the other inside forward Duggie Reid to score the goals with his thunderbolt shooting.

The forward line in those two season featured the pace and goal scoring of winger Peter Harris, the guile and experience of Ike Clarke, the versatility of Jack Froggatt and Phillips and Reid. Between them they scored one hundred and forty three league goals in those two seasons proof that the Pompey that ruled the nation were a team not just a few individuals.

Sadly none of them would win many caps for their countries - Reid was never capped by Scotland - and they were really ignored by the nation as stars. On Portsea Island though they were revered as Gods and young boys would chase them everywhere for autographs, such were the days before television.

Len Phillips would himself win just three caps for England; his debut coming on 14 November 1951 when at the age of twenty nine he lined up against Northern Ireland at Villa Park - he had team mate Jimmy Dickinson in the team for company. In the current vogue of numbering players in the order they made their first game, Len was number 712. Len had to wait three more years for his other two caps coming in victories over Wales and West Germany both games being played at Wembley.

Sadly while on England duty in March 1955 Len picked up a serious knee injury in a training game and his career was over. He managed just one more Pompey appearance the following January against Grimsby in the Cup but tore a knee ligament.

Sadly two factors were against Len as he tried to fight his way back to full fitness one was the standards of surgery in those days and the other was his age. As a late starter in the game he was now approaching thirty four and most players were looking to hang up their boots by then.

Len was thus destined to play non league football for Poole Town, Chelmsford City, Bath City and Ramsgate Athletic before returning to work as a lathe operator at De Havilland in the city.

How will he be remembered by Pompey fans? Firstly as another of the one club men but mostly for his fantastic ball control and trickery which in the days of the heavy leather ball, with its laces and all, was some accomplishment. In fact I read one story that described him as a Brazilian style ball-playing schemer who possessed wizard ball control and was capable of destroying defences with a single pass. He played 245 league games for the club and scored 48 goals.

Len and his wife Joan celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on 14th July this year. Len was inducted into the Pompey Hall of Fame in January 2010 and he was the last surviving member of the regular Championship side.

I have even managed to find you a Len Phillips goal - it came against Doncaster in the FA Cup fifth round in 1952. The clip courtesy of British Pathé news shows just how packed Fratton Park was in those days with over 44,000 present - how Pompey fans loved the Cup in those days and how Len was so proud to get his hands on the trophy in 2008 when the club took it to him..

Watch the clip here Len is wearing number ten and shows flashes of great skill.

All of us at Vital Pompey would like to pass our condolences to Joan and her family many of who live in the City.

Toast remembers

Stories of Len Phillips have many times graced the pages of Sunday Toast.

Here are a few Season 3 #24 celebrated his Hall of Fame induction with 'Older fans would say Len was the most skilful player ever to play for the club. An old fashioned inside forward discovered while playing for the Royal Marines.

Season 2#18 told of Len opening a garden at St James hospital 'Andy Tysoe of the Portsmouth Hospitals Trust said: 'I cannot think of anyone better to open our dignity garden, and I'm honoured he agreed to do so in the presence of the FA Cup, former team mates and his loved ones. I don't think it could be any more poignant.

And even as recently as Season 5#5 we marked Len`s Birthday in the usual way.

I will try and pick up more from fans who either knew him or saw him play as they talk to me and will let you have more of an insight into this true Pompey great when I have it.

Thanks Len!!

The Toast flag today flies at half mast!

PUP

Win FREE pizza with Vital Football!
Select your team and get 50% off if they score twice.
www.papajohns.co.uk/football



Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:eastneydave
Date:Friday December 9 2011
Time: 3:55PM

Best of Vital Network

Comments

0
very sad to hear of the passing of one of pompey's finest - you have certainly done len justice though here with this dave.
pompeyrug
09/12/2011 16:11:00
0
Legend is too often used today on players not fit to be described a good let alone great. However; truly the word can be bestowed upon the genuinely great Len Phillips, His is a legacy that does justice to the Man and the City. The passing of an era and a gentleman, Rest in peace, Your place in Folklore is assured.
penton
09/12/2011 18:47:00
0
Forgot to say,Thanks and well done Dave
penton
09/12/2011 19:00:00
0
A great player and a gracious man.
007
10/12/2011 09:48:00
0
Nice one Dave.. As you know I met Len on a few occasions and even spent an afternoon in the company on him and Joan in their Hilsea home .. where I was lucky enough to see those England Caps and hear all the stories of a great player in a great team. RIP Len .. A Pompey Hero from (sadly) long forgotten days.
Chix
10/12/2011 10:41:00
0
Nice Tribute and great to see a full FP ! and my stand unchanged! RIP and PUP
BarneyArmy
10/12/2011 21:35:00
Page 1/1
  1. 1

Login to post a comment

Recent Portsmouth Articles

We know Danny you want to stay!

In case we had forgot Hollands has reminded us of his desire to stay with Pompey! I'm not 'desperate' either way in many ways but sorting this quickly would be best for all concerned.

Three more pre-season games announced

'Glamour ties' are loved but pre-season is about fitness and form so it doesn't matter if it's Barcelona or Bognor... Then again a trip to the Nou Camp wouldn't be turned down!

On this day in history...24th May

A look back at this day in history, and what was happening with Pompey courtesy of our sister site PompeyRama, 24th May.

Sheffield United loanee open to Pompey return

McNulty would welcome a permanent transfer to Pompey. Although the Sheffield United striker could well be part of new manager Wilder's plans, so the chances seem 50:50 at best?

Archived Vital Pompey Articles

Vital Pompey articles from

Site Journalists

pompeyrug
Editor email
Profile
eastneydave
Editor email
Profile
paultsmouth
no email
Profile
Chix
no email
Profile

Current Poll (see more polls)

PO - Plymouth MotM
Suggested By: Site Staff
Allsop6%
Davies4%
Burgess21%
Barton51%
Stevens0%
Evans0%
Hollands2%
Doyle8%
Bennett0%
McNulty4%
Roberts0%
Sub - McGurk2%
Sub - Close0%
Sub - Chaplin2%
ScoopDragon Publishing Entire League Network of Sites

League Table

# Team P W D L Pts. GD
C Northampton 46 29 12 5 99 36
P Oxford 46 24 14 8 86 43
P Bristol Rovers 46 26 7 13 85 31
4 Accrington 46 24 13 9 85 26
5 Plymouth 46 24 9 13 81 26
6 Portsmouth 46 21 15 10 78 31
7 Wimbledon 46 21 12 13 75 14
8 Leyton Orient 46 19 12 15 69 -1
9 Cambridge 46 18 14 14 68 11
10 Carlisle 46 17 16 13 67 5
11 Luton 46 19 9 18 66 2
12 Mansfield 46 17 13 16 64 8
13 Wycombe 46 17 13 16 64 1
14 Exeter 46 17 13 16 64 -2
15 Barnet 46 17 11 18 62 -1
16 Hartlepool 46 15 6 25 51 -23
17 Notts County 46 14 9 23 51 -29
18 Stevenage 46 11 15 20 48 -15
19 Yeovil 46 11 15 20 48 -16
20 Crawley 46 13 8 25 47 -33
21 Morecambe 46 12 10 24 46 -22
22 Newport 46 10 13 23 43 -21
R Dag & Red 46 8 10 28 34 -35
R York 46 7 13 26 34 -36
Latest F1 News
Latest Vital Boxing News

Recent Portsmouth Results (view all)

Portsmouth Fixtures (view all)

Vital Members League Table

RankNamePoints
1.pompeyrug66
2.storagematt30
3.FrattonBlue22
4.Copnor4321
5.mslorna4820
6.Emsworthianblue11
7.eastneydave10
8.Ronald Wilson7
9.Jimsmithswig7
10.PompeyFromtheUSA4