To say Phil Wood played more games for St Albans City than anyone else in the history of the Club only scratches at the surface of a player who is deeply etched into the memory of those who saw him in the Cityâ€™s colours between 1962 and 1984.
Phil signed for the Saints from Leggatts Way Old Boys during the 1961-62 season. His first run out came at right-half as one of five 18-year- olds to play for a City Reserves side that defeated Wycombe Wanderers Reserves 7-2 in an Isthmian League Reserve Section match at Clarence Park on 21st April 1962.
His First team debut came at the start of the following season as City beat Stevenage 2-1 at the Park in the Herts Charity Cup. It was not until the towards the end of the 1962-63 that Phil was finally handed his Isthmian League debut by coach Alex â€˜Jockâ€™ Weir. That came on 13th April â€“ the 55th anniversary of the formation of the Club â€“ when City, boosted by four goals from Barry Payne, won 6-2 at Champion Hill against Dulwich Hamlet. Phil featured in nine of the remaining 11 games of the season and collected a Herts Charity Cup runners up medal following defeat to Bishopâ€™s Stortford on 1st June. It was the first of 18 First team cup finals in which he played whilst with St Albans. But Philâ€™s first cup final for St Albans in any competition had come on Easter Monday, 15th April, when he was a member of the Reserve side that defeated Letchworth Town Reserves 3-2 in the Herts Intermediate Cup. For most of the season Phil played for the City Reserves, scoring once in 25 games. That goal was a penalty but he also missed two other efforts from 12 yards. He also, in June, played against Schleswig 06 and Oldesloe as City made a two-match tour of Germany.
The 1963-64 season saw Harry Gibson installed as manager and Phil become an established member of the side with 34 appearances. He opened the campaign by scoring Cityâ€™s first goal of the season as Corinthian Casuals were beaten 2-0 on 24th August. The match was played under the shadow of the newly erected but not yet switched on floodlights at the Park. During this season he made his first appearance in both the FA Cup and Amateur Cup, the latter a 2nd Round tie at home to Whitby Town that City lost 2-0. He also played in seven Reserve team matches; it was to be another 18 years until he next turned out for the Cityâ€™s second string.
A year later, 1964-65, Phil topped the appearances chart for the first time when playing in 54 of Cityâ€™s 56 games. He also collected his first senior winners medal as City defeated Dagenham in the two- legged Mithras Cup, but he lost out in the Herts Senior Cup as Barnet won that two-legged affair.
The 1965-66 season saw Phil play in excess of 50 games for the second successive season, in fact the first match of the campaign, a 4-0 win at Dulwich Hamlet with Barry Butterfield scoring all four goals, was Philâ€™s 100th for the Club. Cityâ€™s interest in the Amateur Cup ended in the 3rd Round with a replay defeat to Wycombe Wanderers. The two matches against the Buckinghamshire side attracted crowds of 5,964 and 5,103, the latter at Clarence Park. In October Phil was selected for the Hertfordshire county side for the first of 11 times between then and January 1971. With victory over Hemel Hempstead Town, in the again two- legged final, Phil picked up his first Herts Senior Cup winners medal.
Phil kicked off the 1966-67 season with a Representative honour when selected for the Isthmian League XI that played champions Leytonstone at Granleigh Road on 20th August. At the opposite end of the season a Herts Charity Cup winners medal was added to his collection with a home win over Hemel Hempstead Town.
St Albans City had enjoyed steady rather than spectacular success under Gibson and in the summer of 1967 he was replaced by the Chesham United manager Sid Prosser at the start of a glorious, but all too brief, period in Cityâ€™s history. Phil again made in excess of 50 appearances as City finished fifth in the Isthmian League, their highest placing since he had joined the Club. The Herts Senior Cup was secured with a 1-0 win over Hertford Town at Watfordâ€™s Vicarage Road stadium.
The 1968-69 season was a campaign in which Prosserâ€™s side came so close to achieving football immortality courtesy of the FA Cup. Having progressed through four qualifying rounds, Phil played in the FA Cup proper for the first time as City, after a replay, defeated Wealdstone in the 1st Round. In the 2nd Round St Albans were just five minutes away from claiming their first Football League scalp in 44 years only for Walsall to salvage a somewhat flattering draw at the Park. City, and Woodâ€™s, dream of playing Tottenham Hotspur in the 3rd Round vanished as Walsall won the replay 3-1. The crowd at Fellows Park numbered 10,626, the largest that Phil ever played in front of whilst with St Albans. Although it was of scant consolation, another Herts Senior Cup winners medal made its way into the Wood household as City defeated Cheshunt. St Albans played an astonish 80 games during the season, just 38 of which were league games. Along with Les Burgess, Phil became the first player to make 70 appearances in one season. During the season Prosser switched Phil from right-half to a central defender. He formed a formidable partnership with Burgess and went on to perfect the sweeper role. Any desire Phil may have held of recharging his batteries with a quiet close season was washed away when he was invited to join the Middlesex Wanderers for a six-match tour of Japan and South Korea during May 1969. A year earlier Japan had won Bronze at the Mexico Olympics and included that competitions leading goal scorer, Kunishige Kamamoto, for a match against the Wanderers on 15th May. Phil played in that game, which the Wanderers won 2-1 at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, in front of an estimated crowd of 36,000.
For the first time since the Cityâ€™s halcyon days of the 1920s, St Albans went into the 1969-70 campaign as one of the fancied sides for the Amateur Cup. That view was strengthened when Wycombe Wanderers were seen off 2-0 in the quarter-final. The attendance at Loakes Park was given as 10,200, the biggest that Phil played in front of against fellow non-league opposition during his time as a Saint. But Amateur Cup glory did not materialise as Dagenham, following a 1-1 draw at Millwall, defeated City 1-0 in the replay at Luton Town. Towards the end of the season victory over Hitchin Town saw Phil collect his second Herts Charity Cup winners medal, but Hitchin gained revenge by defeating City in the more prestigious London Senior Cup final at Enfield. Phil looked to be closing in on international recognition when he was captain of The South side that played The North at Chesterfield on 18th October. The South lost 3-1 but he had another opportunity to further his international prospects a month later when he turned out for an FAXI that tackled Oxford University at Iffley Road. Unfortunately he was savagely criticised by England manager Charlie Hughes after the game, as his hopes appeared to suffer a bitter blow. More locally, Phil was one of a high number of City players that appeared in all five games Hertfordshire played in the Southern Counties Amateur Championship. Herts won the competition with a 2-1 win over Lincolnshire 2-1 in the final at Lincoln Cityâ€™s Sincil Bank stadium. That match was actually held over to the following season, 26th September, with six City players in the starting XI being joined later in the game by substitute Dave Neville. Phil picked up two other representative honours at either end of the season when he was again selected for the Middlesex Wanderers, this time for two 0-0 draw with Netherlands in September and May.
The 1970-71 season saw the Saints make a sustained bid for the Isthmian League championship for the only time during Philâ€™s time at Clarence Park. St Albans had to settle for third place but did lift the London Senior Cup, with victory over Enfield at Barnet, and the Wycombe Floodlit Cup, with a two-legged win over Marlow. Philâ€™s two goals in the 1st Leg against Marlow (his only double for the Saints) ended a personal run of 212 games without a goal. His hopes of winning a fourth Herts Senior Cup winners medal were dashed by a replay defeat to Bishopâ€™s Stortford. Phil ended the season with his second appearance for the Isthmian League Representative side (alongside fellow Saints Les Burgess and John Butterfield), which lost 3-2 against the Athenian League at Wycombe.
During the 1971-72 season Prosserâ€™s squad began to break up and the side finished the season in seventh place, Phil topped the appearances table with 66 games. In what was to be Prosserâ€™s final season, Wood added Mithras Cup and Hitchin Centenary Cup winners medals to his collection with wins over Tilbury and Baldock Town respectively. The delayed final of the Herts Charity Cup from the previous season allowed Phil to win three trophies in one season for the only time during his St Albans career. The disintegration of the City squad continued at the end of the season with Phil moving on to sign for Enfield after making 523 appearances for the Saints.
One of the major personal honours still not to have come Philâ€™s way was an Amateur England International cap, but within weeks of him signing for Enfield the wait was over as, on 17th June 1972, he played for England during a 2-0 win over Turkey in Ankara. The decision of England manager Charlie Hughes not to pick any St Albans City players caused plenty of frustration at Clarence Park. When John Butterfield and Tony Turley both joined Wood in playing for England shortly after leaving St Albans for Enfield the Saints bitterness only intensified. Whilst City looked to have been on the receiving end of victimisation, Wood too did not fully get the rewards his t...[Read more]