BRIAN Phillips, the former Mansfield Town FC player jailed for his part in the infamous 1960s betting scandal that rocked football, died last week at the age of 80.
Philips,of Eakring Road, who had been ill for some time, went on to successfully manage Rainworth MW during their glory years in the late 70s and early 80s.
The betting scandal first broke in 1963 when the Sunday People newspaper reported Phillips’ part in fellow player Jimmy Gauld’s attempts to influence the results of certain matches.
Ringleader Gauld played for several clubs, including Mansfield, before his career was ended by a broken leg.
In July 1963 three players, Stags’ Phillips and Bristol Rovers pair Esmond Williams and Keith Williams were found guilty at Doncaster Magistrates Court of trying to fix the result of the Bradford Park Avenue v Bristol Rovers game the previous season and all three were fined the maximum £50 and, three weeks later, permanently banned from football.
The week after the court case, the paper exposed Phillips as the ‘middle man’ in Doncaster who met the others to arrange the fix and he was suspended by the Stags the following day.
But rumours continued that this was the tip of an iceberg with an alleged organised betting ring syndicate yet to be uncovered. By 12th April 1964, the People told of five Mansfield Town players plus Ken Thompson of Hartlepools, fixing a match, which Thompson confessed to.
As a result of police enquiries, 10 players eventually appeared at Mansfield Magistrates in September, charged with bribery and corruption, all being committed for trial as Nottingham Assizes.
A three-week trial in January ended with all found guilty charged with Phillips jailed for 15 months. In the end 33 players were prosecuted in one of the biggest scandals ever to rock football.
The story was dramatised in 1997 in a BBC film ‘The Fix’, directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Jason Isaacs as Tony Kay and Steve Coogan as Sunday People journalist Michael Gabbert, whose investigative work led to the uncovering of the scandal, though the script seemed to disregard the facts too often.
By the time Phillips had the chance to appeal against his life ban when the FA amended the rules in 1971, he was 40 and too old to make a playing comeback.
But he did want to get back involved with the game and began a career in management at Clipstone Welfare and then moved to Retford Town, before taking the reins at Rainworth, who had a minute’ silence for him before Saturday’s game
Famously, he led the club to national prominence with six successive Notts Alliance championships, culminating in the magical 1981-82 season when, along with the league title, he won both the League Senior Cup and Notts Senior Cup and, most famously of all, Rainworth embarked on an FA Vase run all the way to the Wembley final.
The final was lost 3-0 to Forest Green Rovers, but Rainworth became only the second true amateur club to reach the Vase final and the first Miners’ Welfare club to play in a Wembley final.
Phillips called it a day at the end of the 1982-83 season, but was soon persuaded back for a short second stint in charge.
Among the players of that era was the Wrens’ current manager Kevin Gee, who said:”It’s a really sad for football as a true legend within the game and a great man has left us.
“Brian really gave me my first break in football and, like most teenagers, I knew everything, had everything, and didn’t need any guidance to further my career.
“Three seasons with Brian soon changed that, and not only did he help me develop my technical ability, but he rounded me as a person and gave me many of the principles I carry with me today.
“He was a fantastic man manager but also knew when to allow you freedom to express yourself, and I’m sure there will be plaudits from many of the players that Brian influenced throughout his career, including the Wembley team that I was privileged to play with during my time there.
“My thoughts go out to his family in these sad times and, of course, Keeley and Mark, who are of similar age to myself, so I knew them personally as well. But I’m sure with the amount of condolence messages that the club and his family will receive over the coming days when the news circulates that they will take great pride in what a wonderful man Brian was.”
In recent years Phillips had been dogged by ill health, but he still kept in touch with the club and ardently followed the Wrens’ rise up the Pyramid under the managership of Rudy Funk, who said: “Brian, more than anyone, not only enjoyed phenomenal success with the club, but more importantly the club’s achievements under his leadership laid the foundation for what was to follow.
“Without that foundation in place for me to build on all those years later, the great progress that has been made may not have been possible.
“I am proud to have known him and to have had his unstinting support during my own years at Rainworth.”
In his earlier years Brian played for Middlesbrough and then Mansfield Town as a no-nonsense central defender, and in his Middlesbrough years was a team mate of the late Brian Clough.