Phil Ledger

John Moore
10:14am, Fri 22nd Jan 2010
It is with great regret and sadness that we announce the passing away of our Life President Phil Ledger.

Phil's contribution to Woking Football Club has been incalculable over the years, having served at the club in a number of capacities. He was a remarkable man, who touched everyone with his kindness, generosity, great knowledge and wisdom, which he was always willing to share.

He will not only be missed by everyone at the club, but also by everyone connected with Conference football.

All our thoughts are with Angela, his relatives, and friends.

We will pay full tribute to Phil in due course, both on the club website and in the programme.

Phil's many, many friends in football may wish to leave personal messages here.

Below is a profile of Phil, written by Brian Caffarey for the programme in January 2008.

Phil Ledger must have been born with Cardinal red coursing in his veins. His father, Len Ledger, had been a half-back for Woking from 1921-27 and then became Secretary to the Club. Phil himself was to go on to make over 100 appearances for the Cards in the early 1950s before himself becoming Secretary in 1967. He has since served the Club in almost every capacity, including Chairman, and has recently notched up 40 years’ service behind the scenes.

Phil was born in 1931, so never saw his father playing for the Club. But he says that he always thought that he would like to play for Woking one day. He started off, though, as a mascot when Woking Reserves won the Surrey Intermediate Cup in 1939. One of the Woking players gave ‘Pip’ his winner’s medal, which Phil has kept to this day. Phil played for Monument Hill school, originally as a centre-forward. Geoff Hamm, one of the great Woking FA Amateur Cup-winning side, was also in the team. Phil began his goalkeeping career when the regular keeper swore at one of the teachers and Phil found himself between the sticks for a match at Kingfield School. Phil went on to play for Woking Rovers, again with Geoff Hamm, before joining the YMCA team. Both sides ‘won everything going’ and Phil eventually joined the Woking first team in the 1952-53 season. Phil recalls that things were very different then: “We only trained on Thursday evenings. The Selection Committee met at the Albion Hotel on Monday evenings and posted a notice outside setting out the team for the following Saturday. Players were then sent a folded card telling them that they’d been selected and asking them if they were available and giving them instructions about where to meet, usually at the Albion Hotel. We always had dinner there after the match, whether we played home or away. It all changed in Bill Mitchell’s time: players were then given a box on the coach with a chicken leg and an apple in it.�

“Phil played alongside Woking legends such as the Mortimore brothers….�

Phil played for the Cards till the end of the 1956-57 season, gaining a Surrey Senior Cup Winner’s medal and a runners-up medal in the Isthmian League. He played alongside Woking legends such as the Mortimore brothers, Geoff Hamm and Geoff Parsons. The arrival of Joe Burley, though, saw Phil facing relegation to the ‘Stiffs’ and he moved on the following season to play for Alton Town for four or five games. But Phil bumped into Clarrie Jarman one lunchtime, who asked him if he was doing anything on Saturday since he’d heard that Wimbledon were looking for a keeper for their third team. Phil played, got picked for the reserves the following Saturday and then received a telegram telling him that he’d been selected for the first team to play Kingstonian. Phil saved a penalty in that match and never looked back. He went on to play over 100 games for Wimbledon, who were, of course, one of Woking’s great rivals in those Amateur days.

Phil’s move to Alton and Wimbledon meant that he missed Woking’s greatest-ever triumph, the 3-0 victory over Ilford in the FA Amateur Cup at Wembley on 12 April 1958. Phil remembers listening to the Final on a wireless that he’d put in the back of the net while Wimbledon were playing away at Oxford! Phil comments: “I’ve got no regrets. I was told that I wasn’t going to be needed at Woking, so I went to Alton and Wimbledon. I had a great time at Wimbledon, winning the Isthmian League title with them. It was very enjoyable to play in front of big crowds: Wimbledon frequently had 7,000 fans for their home games. I received proper coaching for the first time too, from Les Henley, who had played for Arsenal and Reading. I played for Wimbledon until the end of the 1961-62 season but then got injured.� One of Mark Doyle’s inimitable Cardinal Tales recounts how Phil saved a penalty against his old club in bizarre circumstances. The Dons were leading 5-4. Reg Stratton stepped up to take the penalty for the Cards and converted. But the referee made him take the kick again, apparently because Phil had moved! Reg missed the re-taken kick and the Dons won the game 5-4. Claude Elmer’s comments to Phil were unprintable!

“Devoted service must run in the family….his brother, aged 82, still arranges the schools fixtures for the Surrey FA�

Phil went on to help Wimbledon Reserves but was then asked in 1967 to come back to Woking …and has been here ever since! Phil says that he’s enjoyed every minute of his time at the Club in whatever capacity he’s served, including being Chairman from 1996-98. Devoted service must run in the family. Phil told me that his brother, aged 82, still arranges the schools fixtures for the Surrey FA! On top of his services to Woking, Phil has been a Director of the Football Conference for most of Woking’s time in the league and has served the Surrey FA for some 20 years. In addition, Phil was a serving JP for twenty-five years and is a Governor at Westfield School. Phil’s daytime job was at Unwins, the printers, for whom he worked for 50 years, becoming Group Services Manager.

Phil comes into the Club almost every weekday. He does a stint on the information desk at the Magistrates’ Court in the morning and then comes into the Club for about four hours or so. He’s here too from 10.30am on matchdays and always attends away games as well. That’s not counting all the evening telephone calls dealing with changes of referees etc. Phil is responsible for sorting out players’ contracts and all the (ever increasing!) paper work for the Conference, the FA and the Football League. (As fans will be well aware, this isn’t an easy task: quite a few clubs have suffered points deductions as a result of mistakes in the paper work for players.) He also organises all the travel and accommodation. He is grateful for the help he now receives from Derek Powell and Jane Spong and speaks warmly of the assistance he’s now getting from Colin Lippiatt, a man with an unrivalled knowledge of the non-League game, according to Phil. In case anyone is in any doubt: like other great servants of the Club, Phil gives his time for free, rarely claiming any of the expenses to which he is entitled, and receiving few ‘perks’ to speak of. Phil even let slip that, in the days when he was still working, he financed the purchase of one or two players, including one who appeared in a Trophy Final for us.

“Phil has a fund of amusing stories….�

Phil has a fund of amusing stories. I particularly liked the one about the sheep! Apparently, after the War, Clarrie Jarman had the bright idea that the problem of the long grass behind the ground could be solved by getting a local farmer to put his sheep there to crop it. At about four o’clock one Sunday morning Phil had a phone call from the police to tell him that ‘your sheep have escaped and are running amok in the Westfield Avenue’. That was the end of the sheep at Kingfield – although one or two fans will think that we’ve seen quite a few donkeys since!

Phil says that he’s seen so many fine players down the years that it’s impossible for him to say who have been his favourites. But he clearly has a soft spot for Kenny Oram (“a sportsman and a gentleman�), who still comes down to the ground, and Geoff Hamm, whom he invites to matches from time to time. Phil is helping to arrange a game between a Woking Veterans side and a Southampton Veterans side to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cards’ great FA Amateur Cup triumph, getting as many of that side to attend as possible. Among more recent Woking legends, Phil had a special word for the Wye brothers: “they always gave 110% for the Club�.

I asked Phil if he’d thought of calling it a day at 76. “Well, the way I look at it is that I don’t cost Woking anything. I’m happy to carry on as long as they still want me.� I asked if his dream was to see Woking play in the League. “I’ve seen enormous changes already at the Club. I’ll just be happy if I can see the new stand built and if we can then move on from there�, he says. Let’s hope that Phil’s dream is realised and that he is around at Kingfield for many more years to come.

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