Pompey legend’s family asked to pay £1,575 to hold wake at Fratton Park

STAR Len Phillips reflecting on his glory days, with a photo of Pompey the Division One champions in 1948-49
STAR Len Phillips reflecting on his glory days, with a photo of Pompey the Division One champions in 1948-49
The Purbrook team are, left to right, Jon Harvey, Elizabeth Norris and Peter Emmett

THIS WEEK IN 1975: Purbrook Park is a talking success

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FANS and former players have criticised Pompey after the club quoted the grieving family of legendary forward Len Phillips more than £1,500 to hold his wake at Fratton Park.

The News understands the Pompey legend’s family was quoted £500 for use of the Victory Bar and £1,075 for a buffet following his funeral.

But former Pompey and England star Ray Crawford, a close friend of Mr Phillips, said the decision was ‘disgraceful’.

He said: ‘It is disgusting they are trying to profit from a man’s funeral.

‘His family weren’t looking for anything for free but the money they have been quoted is absolutely ridiculous.

‘Anything they have had in their life they have worked hard for, they were looking for a sensible amount of money to pay.

‘It would have been nice to hold it at Fratton Park because he’s a legend – everyone knows him as a player and a person.’

Another close friend of Mr Phillips, Roger Higgins, who worked for the club for more than 30 years, added: ‘Personally, I think it is disgraceful the way it has been treated.

‘Len’s the last of the 1948-49 championship-winning side.

‘Unfortunately there are not many staff working at the club that have the knowledge on its history and wouldn’t know what a marvellous player he was, what he did for the club, and that he stayed in the town for the rest of his life.

‘It’s a bit sad and reflects badly on the club.’

Former Pompey goalkeeper Alan Knight, who made more than 650 appearances for the club, said it was a ‘PR disaster’.

He said: ‘I’m willing to give the club a bit of leeway but they have not thought this through very well. It’s a real shame that something couldn’t have been sorted out for Len. We are talking about one of the greatest players to play for the club.’

Mr Phillip’s family would not comment on the club’s proposal, and are planning to hold an event at Moneyfields in Copnor.

The Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST) has urged the club to apologise and Bob Beech, of SOS Pompey, said the decision was ‘a new low’ for the club.

Julie Cheshire, joint-steward at Moneyfields, said: ‘The family came to Moneyfields and we were happy to offer them the use of our hall for free.’

In a statement, a Pompey spokesman said: ‘It is deeply regrettable that matters associated with the funeral arrangements for Len Phillips, one of this club’s finest servants, should be the subject of media speculation.

‘We do not think it appropriate to add to that speculation by commenting publicly at this time even if that means we have to accept some unwarranted criticism. Our thoughts continue to be with Len’s wife Joan and his family at this most difficult time.’

Mr Phillips’ funeral is at Portchester Crematorium on December 28 at 3.30pm.

Len was a very classy and creative player

HE was a great guy and a tremendous icon for Pompey.

Those are the views of club historian Richard Owen on his friend, Pompey legend Len Phillips.

Len is considered to be one of the all-time Pompey greats and was an integral part of the club’s League Championship-winning sides of 1948-49 and 1949-50.

As reported previously, Len died on Thursday, December 8 aged 89. He played for Pompey for 10 years after serving in the Royal Marines during the Second World War.

Born in Shoreditch, east London, Len made his first-team debut during the 1946-47 season before establishing himself as the club’s inside forward. He won his first England cap in the 2-0 win over Northern Ireland, and later made appearances against Wales and West Germany.

He made a total of 261 league and cup appearances for Pompey and netted 62 times.

Len turned out for non-league sides Poole Town and Bath City and ended his playing days for Waterlooville.

‘He was an extremely underrated player,’ said Mr Owen. ‘He was very classy, his passing was extremely accurate and he made a lot of goals for Peter Harris and Duggie Reid.

‘It’s a shame there was so much talent in the England team in his day or he could have been picked more.

‘His appearances and goalscoring record was remarkable – he was a very creative player.

‘He used to go dancing in the city and abided by all the club rules. He was a great ambassador for the city, as all the championship-winning side were.

‘I knew him very well and he will be sadly missed.’