extract from the Guardian Monday 26 December 2011
Len Phillips won three caps for England
Len Phillips, who has died aged 89, was a prominent member of the Portsmouth football team that won consecutive league championships in 1949 and 1950. Though spotted and signed by Portsmouth while serving in the Royal Marines during the second world war, he was, in fact, a Londoner, born in Shoreditch.
At inside-left, he was a classical playmaker who in 261 appearances for Pompey would score 62 goals. Though they were relatively few and far between when Portsmouth won the championship in the 1948-49 season, the team always won when he scored. His total that season was 11 out of the team's 84 goals; he missed only two games. The following season, when Portsmouth retained the title, he played in 34 matches but scored only five times. In the following two seasons Phillips scored, respectively, 11 and 13 goals.
It was the manager Jack Tinn, whose "lucky" spats were ceremoniously put on his legs before each game, – as when Pompey surprisingly won the FA Cup Final of 1939 – who discovered Phillips, but the less flamboyant Bob Jackson who took Portsmouth to their triumphs in the league. In 1952, Eddie Lever, a great believer in creative football, who took over at the club and, after selling his uncompromising Scottish international right-half, Jimmy Scoular, to Newcastle United, had the inspired idea of switching Phillips to that position. It might have seemed something of a gamble, since the two could hardly have had more contrasting styles – Scoular was a formidable tackler and hard man, Phillips was ever the constructive artist – but it worked extremely well, above all in the combination between Phillips and his fellow England international, the outside-right Peter Harris.
An abundance of gifted English inside-forwards meant that Phillips received only a single England cap in the position, against Northern Ireland in the 1951-52 season. Two more caps followed, the first against Wales in November 1954. Then, Phillips played at right-half for England against West Germany in a friendly at Wembley on 1 December 1954. This, untypically for the times, was an England team full of ball-playing virtuosi, including Len Shackleton, who would score a beautifully flighted goal in a 3-1 win, the ball sailing over the head of the German goalkeeper. The German team, to be fair, was greatly weakened by the mysterious epidemic of jaundice affecting many of the team which had then recently won the World Cup.
There might have been other England caps, had Phillips not been injured during training with the squad.
In 1956, another injury, a bad one, to a torn ligament, playing for Portsmouth against Grimsby Town, subverted his career. Leaving Portsmouth, he played for non-league Poole Town, Chelmsford and Bath City, scouted on his retirement for Leeds United, and ultimately worked as a lathe operator for De Havilland, in Portsmouth. There were no football millionaires in those days of the maximum wage.He married Joan in 1951 and they had two children.
• Horace Leonard Phillips, footballer, born 11 September 1922; died 9 December 2011