Ted Phillips at 80: Powerful Ipswich Town legend was goalkeepers’ nemesis

Ted Phillips and his wife Di

Ted Phillips and his wife Di - Credit: Archant

There are likely to have been few tears shed by opposition goalkeepers when Ted Phillips hung up his boots in 1966.

Known for having the most powerful shot in football, following a national experiment involving the likes of Peter Lorimer and Bobby Smith, the inside-forward, born at Gromford, near Snape, who turns 80 today, was a fearsome figure on the pitch.

He scored 181 goals, Town’s third-highest scorer of all time, and set up many more, most notably for the club’s all-time leading marksman, Ray Crawford.

The pair struck up a legendary partnership that saw Town win the Division Two and One titles in successive seasons, the Blues seeing off the challenge of the mighty Tottenham and Burnley to lift their only top-flight title to date, in 1962.

“People used to make a big thing about how hard I could kick the ball, but that is what I was there for,” says Ted, who holds the record for the most goals scored for the club in one season with 46 in the 1956/1957 season “I used to score a lot of goals and so did Ray, from rebounds, when the goalkeeper failed to hold my shots. “I knocked three goalkeepers out and broke another one’s wrist with the ball. A trialist the club had left on a stretcher.

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“That came just after Sir Alf had been marking me in training and we collided and he ended up on the floor.

“The trainer Jimmy Forsyth wanted to help him but Alf wouldn’t let him.”

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It was more than just devilish power that Ted possessed, the likeable former Army man had a wicked side off the pitch too.

“The players always knew who the joker was,” chuckles his wife, Di, who often acted as Ted’s chauffeur to games up and down the country when he played for Luton.

“He used to put cockroaches in Sir Alf’s soup, while Jimmy (Leadbetter) used to arrive home with cutlery in his pockets and his wife, Janet, would do her nut.”

Crawford, meanwhile, revealed his former partner-in-crime was never far away from the fun.

“You did not know what he was going to do next,” said Crawford.

“We used to have the big baths that we shared after games and you used to make sure that you kept your mouth shut if Ted was in there with you.

“Otherwise you would get a bar of carbolic soap across your teeth and gums.”

He added: “Then there was an incident with Sir Alf.

“The toilets used to be outside at Portman Road and Ted once went out there with a bucket of ice cold water and threw it over the unsuspecting victim who was in there at the time. That just happened to be Sir Alf.

“There was a huge shout and Ted ran off and everyone protested their innocence. Sir Alf knew it was Ted, it was obvious!”

A practical joker off it but Phillips had more than just personality and power as he made it to the top at Portman Road, becoming a Blues hero for more than a decade.

However, one thing that eluded him was an England cap.

“I did go along to one training camp but I hurt my ankle and Sir Alf then picked Jimmy Greaves instead,” said Ted, who retired in the same year that England won the World Cup, thanks largely to Sir Geoff Hurst, the player that benefited after Greaves was controversially dropped by Ramsey.

“But I loved playing for Ipswich. “There would always be someone wanting to congratulate you or get your autograph.

“Then there was the man who I bought my fruit from in the mornings on my way to games who would tell me to score a goal.

“It was a special time and we had a special team.

“All the team blended well and myself and Ray (Crawford) just clicked. He was probably the best player I played with, although John Elsworthy was a good player too,

“Every time I went out to play for Alf I was pumped up, I loved him.

“It was a shame when he was sacked by England, there was no one better.”

The sacking of Ramsey leads Ted to recall a famous tale.

“I met Sir Alf on the train on the way back up to Ipswich from Chelmsford,” he recalls.

“We had a good chat and a drink and when I left the train he was waving like hell.

“It was only the next day that I read in the paper that he had been sacked by England and he was on the journey back from the FA having learned his fate. He never said a word.”

Phillips left the club in 1964 and went on to have spells with Luton, Orient and Colchester, as well as managing Maltese side Floriana, for whom the players would be blessed by the local priests before games.

He also played cricket for Colchester & East Essex and Suffolk.

After ending his career, Ted worked for Pirelli Cables in a time before footballers had the luxury of watching their earnings set them up for the rest of their days.

These days, provided they are careful, top footballers earn enough in a year not to have to worry about how they will survive after hanging up their boots but Ted played in a far different era.

“I was playing for Leiston before I went in the Army,” recalls Ted.

“There was a scout that recommended me to Ipswich and I went down for a trial after leaving the Army.

“Scott Duncan was the manager and the goalkeeper was Jack Parry.

“I took a few shots at him and he told the manager to sign me up.”

He added: “I was offered a certain wage and I told the club I could not play for that as I was earning more pruning bushes in Tunstall.

“Scott Duncan (the manager) and Mr John (Cobbold), the chairman agreed to pay me my wages and expenses so I did not have to fork out for my transport.

“I eventually signed and was earning £8 a week which eventually went up to £10.”

It’s a world away from today’s game.

But had Phillips been an Ipswich star today, there’s a good chance the Blues could have been battling it out with the big boys.

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