Lee Philpott

Former Player Remembers: Lee Philpott

When winger Lee Philpott, a Club record signing in November 1992, sat down with Club Historian, John Hutchinson, he reminisced about his career in football.
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Among other matters, Lee remembered his three years at Cambridge United, which took him from the old Fourth Division to the brink of the Premier League and about his time at Leicester City, for whom he appeared at Wembley and played in the top flight.

Lee began by recalling playing under John Beck shortly after signing for Cambridge United in May 1989.

He said: “All the players he signed were released from bigger clubs and were young, in their early 20s. I was 19. His direct way of playing didn’t suit players like me and Steve Claridge, but we were successful so how could we young players challenge his methods? Also, concerning sports science and nutrition, John was very forward thinking.

“In my first year we beat Chesterfield at Wembley to get to the Third Division, which we won the following year. The year after that we lost to Leicester City in the play-off semi-finals for a place in the new Premier League. We had shocked Leicester by beating them 5-0 at Abbey Road in the league but we lost 5-1 in the second leg of the semi-final at Filbert Street, which was a huge disappointment. We’d had a player sent off and Beck made a tactical change which had worked for us earlier in the season when we’d been down to 10 men, but it didn’t work this time!

“From May to November, it kept appearing in the press that Brian Little was interested in signing me for Leicester after their defeat against Blackburn Rovers in the play-off final. If I had had an agent, I would have known that the speculation was true. John told me there was no truth in the speculation, but there had been on-going communication between the clubs. Eventually I signed in November for £350,000.

“My first Leicester game would have been against Cambridge but it was agreed that I wouldn’t play. It was strange. I had made my dream move as a 22 year-old but I had to sit and watch my new club play against my old one.

“At the end of my first season at Filbert Street, we reached the play-off final against Glenn Hoddle’s Swindon for a place in the Premier League. I’d been to Wembley before with Cambridge but this time it was a sell-out. The occasion was quite daunting but I set up a couple of goals and was voted Man of the Match in some quarters. I have fond memories of the game apart from being distraught that we lost 4-3 after coming back from 3-0 down before losing to a late soft penalty. It was a dive. Their players knew it was. I’ve spoken about it to one of them. The match was an awesome experience though.

“Football is a roller-coaster. We had to dust ourselves down and start again. The character of the team showed. We bounced back and got to the Wembley play-offs (for the third successive year) and this time we did it! That’s testament to the manager, his staff and the players who showed the spirit and the desire to do that.

Brian Little leaving in November that season was a massive disappointment for me. I was one of his boys. Mark McGhee did play me but he wanted me to double up.

Lee Philpott

“The next season in the Premier League, we held our own and performed as a team, but we found it difficult to score. If we’d had players with Premier League scoring experience we might have stayed up. In the Premier League I found it easier because you had more time until you reached the final third, where you need that extra bit of quality. Overall I enjoyed it.

“Brian Little leaving in November that season was a massive disappointment for me. I was one of his boys. Mark McGhee did play me but he wanted me to double up.

“When Martin O’Neill arrived a year later, he changed the shape of the team. He went for three at the back. At the time, I was an out-and-out winger, but he played Mike Whitlow at left wing-back. My defensive qualities weren’t great so he played me in midfield but it was difficult for me to get into a midfield with Scott Taylor, Neil Lennon and Garry Parker.”

Lee spent two years each at Blackpool and at Lincoln City before rejoining Little in 2000 at Hull City.

He continued: “When Brian got the job at Hull, they were in administration. I had other offers which were financially better, but I wanted to move for football reasons. Brian couldn’t offer me a contract but said I would get one when the Club came out of administration. I trusted Brian and that’s what happened. I think we came out of administration the day before the first game of the season. All of the players he had promised contracts to were signing before the game. I signed a one-year deal initially. Brian was working with a minimal budget but he got us to the play-offs, where we lost to Leyton Orient. I only missed one game that season.

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Lee Philpott
Lee Philpott

Philpott spent four years at Filbert Street.

“During the season we went back into administration. We never got paid for three months but we went on a great run and went from mid-table to the play-off positions. When we did start getting paid again and got the money owed to us, we got a couple of ‘iffy’ results and Brian joked that he wasn’t going to pay us anymore as we were playing better when we weren’t getting paid.

“In the summer I was given a new two-year deal so my decision to go to Hull for footballing reasons had worked out. We started the season quite well, but I got an Achilles tendon injury. This hampered me for the next two years. Unfortunately Brian got sacked that season and Jan Mølby came in. He set about replacing the team. He lasted about 12 games before being sacked and then Peter Taylor came in. He brought in another team. That was three teams in the space of about a year. It didn’t affect me too much as I was injured most of the time with my Achilles. It was a really frustrating two years.

“Eventually Taylor said he couldn’t play me as I couldn’t train every day. Steve Claridge, my ex Cambridge and Leicester team-mate, who was manager at Weymouth signed me. We had a good first season. I travelled 300 miles from my home in York for each game, but did most of my training myself. We finished second. I enjoyed the year, apart from the travelling. When Steve got the sack the following year I joined Harrogate as player/joint manager with Neil Aspen. We had three good years and I took my coaching badges.”

It was around this time that Lee enjoyed playing for Leicester City (who won the tournament twice) in the national six-a-side Masters Football Tournament in which over 35-year-olds represented their old clubs.

In 2008, he became a licensed football agent. Building on both his vast experiences as a player at all levels and on his many contacts in the football world, he is now director of his company, LPM Football Agents.

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