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7 Of The Best Players To Ever Play For Portsmouth

Podcast Blog Post 13

7: Len Phillips

1947-56, 261 appearances, 62 goals

Rated as one of the most skilful players to grace the club, Phillips was the inside left during the championship seasons. He was Pompey’s engine room with an exceptional work rate allied to clinical tackling, incisive passing and a rocket of a shot. After Jimmy Scoular left the club, Phillips moved back to wing half and filled the role with equal success. He took his time on the ball in a style that was ahead of its time and it was seen as a scandal that he played just three times for England. It was all the more galling that a cartilage injury picked up during an England practice match effectively ended his top-flight career, although he played non-league football well into his forties.

6: Jack Froggatt

1946-54, 304 appearances, 73 goals

One of the finest players to appear in the club’s famous royal blue shirt and another of the lynchpins in the double championship years, an automatic choice on the left wing. His muscular approach to wing play and the ability to score spectacular goals made him a firm favourite at Fratton Park and earned him two England caps in 1950. Two years later, he was switched to centre-half and so excelled in the new position that he won a further 11 caps as a defender. In a 1953 match, he even had a spell in goal following an injury to Norman Uprichard.

5: Jimmy Scoular

1946-53, 268 appearances, 8 goals

Only 5ft 7in tall but with legs like tree trunks and the heart of a lion, Scoular was the powerhouse of Pompey’s championships years. Duncan Edwards described him as the greatest tackler he had seen and few would disagree. Hardly a match went by without the fiery Scottish international being involved in a fracas but he was also an astute passer of the ball. When he was sold to Newcastle United for £26,000 in June 1953, it signalled the beginning of the end for the Blues as a potent force in the top flight. In retirement, Scoular played bowls to a high standard and often returned to the city to play in the annual Southsea Bowls tournament on the seafront.

4: Duggie Reid

1946-56 323 appearances, 134 goals

Another loyal Scottish servant who shone during the championship seasons as a robust goalscoring inside forward, netting 17 times in 1948-49 and 16 the following season. His fearsome striking of a heavy leather ball earned him the nickname “Thunderboots” and, as his pace waned in his mid-thirties, he converted to centre-half and served the club well for another two seasons. In 1959, he took over as the club’s groundsman and produced a famously top-class surface for 20 years, as well as managing the club’s youth hostel with his wife.

3: Alan Knight

1978-2000, 801 appearances

An anachronism in the modern age, Knight was a one-team man who first walked through the Pompey door as a 14-year-old goalkeeper, paying his own fares to play in the cash-strapped club’s youth team. He made his debut at 16 and stayed for more than 25 years, appearing in all four divisions and rarely missing a match. Never flashy but always solid, consistent and brave, Knight earned a special place in Fratton hearts, who dubbed him “The Legend”. He was capped by England at youth and under-21 level and was made an MBE in 2001.

2: Peter Harris

1946-59, 514 appearances, 211 goals

A flying winger who was unlucky to be at his peak at the same time as Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney, playing only twice for the national side. Harris made the No 7 shirt his own at Fratton Park after the Second World War and was a key man in the back-to-back championship seasons, missing just four matches and scoring 33 goals. He also laid on many of his team-mates’ chances by beating the fullback on the outside, racing to the byline and cutting the ball back into the box. Jimmy Dickinson rated him the fastest player in possession he had seen. Harris remained a prolific scorer throughout the 1950s to set the club’s goal record, as well as the third-highest number of appearances. In retirement, he managed the club’s Ex-Championship XI, who raised money for local charities.

Portsmouth’s greatest ever player: Jimmy Dickinson

1946-65, 828 appearances, 10 goals

Pompey has been served by many outstanding players and the majority have made this top 7. Most of the undoubted great players not on the list were left out because they played their best football elsewhere - either leaving the club on the way up or stopping off at the end of their careers for one last hurrah. So many of the modern-day wearers of blue have just not played enough to challenge the sterling service of previous generations.

But the main problem is that everyone who steps on to the Fratton Park pitch has to be judged by the standards of “Gentleman Jim,” the legendary left half who served the club he loved for 32 years as player, secretary, manager and chief executive. The lad from nearby Alton was never booked or sent off in his record number of appearances and it is said that he was never even spoken to by a referee.

Dickinson was the calm and consistent halfback at the heart of Pompey’s glory years, defensively astute in a side packed with brilliant attacking options. He played for so long that he was able to add a 1962 division three championship medal to the two first division gongs of 1949 and ‘50. At 40, he became the oldest player to represent the club and with 48 appearances for England, the most capped.

After a glorious playing career, Dickinson continued to serve on the staff and reluctantly took over as manager in the cash-strapped late-1970s. He suffered a heart attack in the dressing-room at Barnsley in 1979, forcing him to step down as manager. He recovered enough to become chief executive for three years but died in 1982, aged 57. A memorial service was held in the city and was packed to overflowing with the Pompey players and fans who had so loved their greatest player. An image of Dickinson’s face now looks down on the present generation from the seats of the Fratton End, a reminder to all of what it takes to be truly great.