IT was a fitting farewell to a Pompey legend.
Hundreds of mourners – including a host of former players – turned out to pay their respects and say goodbyes to Pompey legend Len Phillips today.
Loved ones and close friends gathered at Portchester Crematorium for Mr Phillips’ funeral following his death earlier this month.
In testament to his status within the Portsmouth community, the Very Rev Paul Miles-Knight, who led the service, said: ‘I have been associated with this building for over a quarter of a century and I can safely say I have never seen this chapel as full as it is now.’
Former players who attended the service included Tommy McGhee, Pat Neil, Bill Albury, John Milkins, David Reid, Alan Knight, Ray Crawford, Les McDonald, Lyn Powell and Mick Mellows.
A military march welcomed Mr Phillips’ funeral procession to the crematorium.
His coffin was draped in a Union Jack flag and adorned by red roses.
Luther Vandross’ Dance With My Father was played in the chapel as mourners entered before Mr Phillips’ coffin was carried in.
Mr Miles-Knight addressed the congregation and said: ‘Few people can claim in their lifetime to be a legend – he was that legend.
‘He was been with us for all our lives. He is part of the lifeblood of the city, of our community and of our nation.
‘I can think of no one who deserves to have that flag more than him – let’s celebrate him.’
A black and white photo of Mr Phillips during his Pompey playing days gently rested on his coffin and watched over the service.
Mr Miles-Knight read out an address from Mr Phillips’ wife Joan, recalling his part in the first wave of D-Day landings with the Royal Navy, the day he joined Pompey, their first meeting at the South Parade Dance and wedding day in Epping 60 years ago.
‘What a fantastic example they are for this day and age’, added Mr Miles-Knight.
Mrs Phillips thanked the staff at the Exbury Ward in St James’ Hospital for their care during her husband’s illness.
An emotional eulogy focusing on the excitement Mr Phillips generated on the Fratton Park pitch and his stature off it was read out by close friend, and former Pompey ace Pat Neil.
Mr Phillips’ grandchildren followed up with an emotional tribute of their own, recalling fond memories of their grandfather watching Only Fools and Horses, and describing him as a ‘man with great morals and a lot of patience.’
The service, which lasted just under an hour, included One Day I’ll Fly Away by Randy Crawford and Mr Phillips’ favourite Dancing Queen by Abba, which Mr Miles-Knight introduced as ‘a song Len made entirely his own’.
Bugler Ltd Cdr Tony Crisp impeccably played out The Last Post and Reveille as the curtains were drawn during Mr Phillips’ commendation and committal.
The service concluded with the playing of the Pompey Chimes as the congregation left the chapel.
Lyn Powell, vice-president of the ex Pompey players association, paid tribute to his friend of more than 60 years.
Describing his playing style, he said: ‘Len was a Brazilian before the Brazilians.’
The Pompey Supporters’ Trust has launched a fundraising appeal in memory of the legendary forward.
All proceeds from the appeal will go to the Exbury Ward at St James’ Hospital – where Mr Phillips spent some years being cared for.
Donations will be accepted in the trust’s bus in Fratton Park car park at the Watford clash on January 2 and the West Ham United match on January 14.
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