Ted's Greatest Game 1962 Win at Spurs
Tuesday, 9th Jan 2018 15:15 by Mel Henderson
Ted Phillips, who has died aged 84, played 295 games for Ipswich, scoring 181 goals, an impressive ratio by any standards, and he was quick to nominate the victory over reigning champions Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Wednesday 14 March 1962, as the most memorable of his entire career.
I recall ringing him to set up an interview for a book – Match of My Life – that I was writing. I explained it would feature 16 of Town’s leading players reliving their most memorable games for the club and he said he would be delighted to assist.
We agreed a date when I would visit his house in Colchester - where he lived until recently moving to a care home in Ipswich - to have a chat. “That gives you a few days to think about it,” I said. “Don’t need to,” he quickly replied. “There’s only one game as far as I’m concerned.”
When Ted and I sat down – him to reminisce, me to record his words – he told me the win at Spurs was regarded at the time as the best result in the club’s history.
They were not only the champions, less than a year earlier they had become the first winners in the modern era of the League and FA Cup double.
Throw in the fact that Town had triumphed in the first fixture earlier that season at Portman Road, that they were becoming recognised as potential title-winners in their first top-flight campaign and that manager Alf Ramsey was an ex-Tottenham player, and it was one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the time.
Hard to imagine now, of course, but there was no segregation at White Hart Lane on the night. Town supporters, many given a day off from their studies as local schools organised special buses, others making the journey on a fleet of trains to Northumberland Park, were able to make their way into the stadium via any entrance.
The players also travelled by rail, Ted joining them at Colchester and making his way to the restaurant car where he and his team-mates tucked into a meal en route to Liverpool Street.
Ted’s strike partner, Ray Crawford, opened the scoring in the eighth minute but Jimmy Greaves quickly levelled. Ted scored the first of his two goals four minutes before half-time and netted again in the 71st minute, when he raced 40 yards on to Doug Moran’s clever pass and fired past goalkeeper Bill Brown from the edge of the area, to complete the scoring.
Ted was delighted but recalled how he could, and probably should, have made it a perfect hat-trick. But, having scored with a header and a right-foot shot, he saw his left-foot effort come back off the junction of bar and post.
“The main thing was that we won and to be honest we were never really in danger of losing, or even drawing, the game,” he remembered. “A pal of mine who was there, and who attended most of our games in that era, said to me afterwards that he had never seen me play a better game for Ipswich.
“I wasn’t one to blow my own trumpet – I preferred to let Alf dish out the praise and he was waiting for us when we came into the dressing room. He made a point of congratulating each and every one of us, patting us all on the back. He looked as if he had won the pools, he was so happy.”
Club chairman John Cobbold was also delighted with the outcome and escorted Ted and his colleagues to a pub virtually next door to the stadium. “The place was full of Spurs fans but we went into the posh bit, the lounge, and there was no trouble,” Ted said.
“Alf didn’t like the way Mr John would take the players for a drink but he couldn’t stop him. You heard Mr John before you saw him because he had so many whisky miniatures in his coat pockets. I remember Alf standing there shouting ‘Come on lads’ and I said ‘Not likely, I’ve still got a pint here.’
“We’d have stayed all night if we could have done but Alf eventually dragged us out and on to the bus to get to Liverpool Street just in time for the last train.”
The victory over Spurs was hugely significant as they had to settle for third place behind runners-up Burnley, with Town top of the pile and Ted was one of many players to collect a League Championship medal a mere 12 months after they had won the Second Division to secure top-flight status for the very first time in their history.
Gromford-born Ted added: “The whole country was stunned by our achievement. We started the season as favourites to go straight back down again, only for the very opposite to happen. It was all down to Alf, who was so thorough in everything he did.
“I’d have been nothing without Alf. He made me as a player the way he chatted to me and built up my confidence. He was like a god to me.”
He was also a renowned practical joker, whose mere presence enhanced the team spirit that carried Town so far under Ramsey. Ted rarely missed a chance to entertain his team-mates, on one occasion borrowing a hotel diner’s bowler hat and umbrella to make his very own grand entrance via a Rolls Royce parked outside, much to the surprise of a stunned commissionaire.
The team hotel was often the scene of Ted’s tomfoolery, even managing to completely remove a colleague’s bed from his room and, more than once, weighing down unsuspecting diners by filling the pockets of coats hanging up with a raft of cutlery.
Ramsey was on the receiving end when he found what he initially suspected to be a real cockroach floating in his soup and Ted also recalled how Scottish trainer Jimmy Forsyth was often the butt of his jokes. He said: “I put some bricks in his bag one day when we were at the station and he could hardly lift it off the platform.
“But one joke very nearly backfired. We were in London waiting to head north when I jumped up and said ‘This is our train Jimmy’. I even helped him on with the skip, then I quickly hopped off again and the train pulled away with him on it and the rest of us standing on the platform.
“Jimmy ended up in Preston but we were actually playing at Stoke and he only got to the ground with 20 minutes to spare.”
Ted had few equals when it came to putting the ball in the net, many of his goals coming from long-distance shots too powerful for the keeper to stop.
He was even officially recognised as having the fiercest shot in football, measured at 87 miles per hour, but he never saw it as a God-given talent. He explained: “As a youngster setting off on the walk to school every morning, I always had a tennis ball in my pocket. I would get it out and kick it all the way there and back, as well as playing with it in the playground in between.
“Eventually I kicked my shoes to pieces and because there wasn’t enough money to buy me another pair I had no alternative but to go to school in my socks. One of my brothers would carry me as far as he could but I still wanted to kick the ball and I genuinely believe that’s what toughened up my feet.”
Like so many giants of the game, away from the pitch Ted was a gentle man, engaging company and blessed with a sharp sense of humour.
He may have plumped for that away win over Tottenham as the match of his life, but perhaps his greatest triumph was battling against the odds to survive double pneumonia as a child and later becoming not only one of the most prolific goalscorers ever but, undoubtedly, one of Ipswich Town’s all-time greats.
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