Former Pompey player Pat Neil paid a fitting tribute to the late great Pompey legend Len Phillips with a great piece he wrote that was read out at Len’s funeral. It was also published in the local paper The News, but for those of you who didn’t see it please take a minute to read it and if you can spare some money, please donate at the bottom.
They flocked there in their thousands in those dreary post-war days,
On foot, on bike, on trolley bus, through lanes and alley ways.
To Fratton Park, the Champions to watch come rain or shine – Scoular, Flewin, Dickinson – now that’s some half back line!
With Butler, Rookes and Ferrier custodians of the box, opponents had their work cut out these stalwarts to out fox.
While tucked in ‘mongst the forwards, Len Phillips stole a place – an ex-marine eastender of bewildering guile and grace.
Supplying Red and Froggatt, Clarke and Peter Harris, a consumate playmaker, opponents he’d embarrass.
The numpties on the terraces ‘get rid of it’ they’d scream, they didn’t seem to understand Len owed it to the team.
To hold the ball, and hold the ball – in this he showed his class, before creating havoc with a penetrating pass.
Down through ensuing decades, the pundits had their say – ‘creative, gifted, thoroughbred’, such plaudits came his way.
In typical forthright fashion, he’d argue to the end, ‘teamwork won those championships, not stars’ he would contend.
Just as it was on D-Day, for he had been there too, no prima donna antics in this team of Pompey blue.
For he was from a different age, and yet before his time – ball playing, scheming visionary, his game came to define.
Eventually his country once again called on his aid – three England caps at number four, and Len had made the grade.
Cruel injury then played its hand. He couldn’t have foreseen the end in sight of first class games on Fratton’s emerald green.
Still playing in his forties though, his skill remained unique, playing as he always did, a ‘one-off’ so to speak.
Giving master classes for teammates half his age, till Father Time decided he had reached the final page.
Len didn’t ‘dig’ the modern game, it truth be told, the spaces left neglected would simply leave him cold.
He’d wave towards the acres bare, if play began to stutter – ‘they might as well plant ‘tatoes there’ impatiently, he’d utter.
And though he’s gone, that final link with feats of yester-year, the legacy he leaves behind continues to endear.
And when the talk’s of football, whilst topping up the glasses, the misty eyed will call to mind, Len’s devastating passes!
For those looking to make a donation to the Exbury Ward, St James’ Hospital (the one that so greatly cared for Len) then you can do so through the Pompey Supporters Trust.