In the early hours of Monday morning Phil Bennett lost his fight to cancer and Stafford Rangers lost both a friend and a very special supporter.
Phil, his wife Sue and son Mark are well known to everyone who is a regular visitor to Marston Road. In addition to his family he was definitively part of the Boro football family and we have lost him far too early. Born in Cannock, the son of a policeman, he lived in the West Midlands in his younger years. Phil was first introduced to the club by a friend in 1970. He was hooked and he began his 50 year love affair with the Rangers.
Rarely missing a home game his enthusiasm and passion showed no bounds and he would often go to away games by train and the then manager Roy Chapman allowed Phil to come back on the team coach.
When the Civil Service transferred him to London he would travel back home at weekends and often on a Tuesday night by train to see the club play and return straight back for work the next morning.
He visited a total of 267 grounds with the Rangers all over the country clocking up thousands of miles, 3 Wembley finals and a memorable trip to Italy in 1976 watching the Anglo Italian Cup with Sue and a band of supporters, which he loved.
Late in the 70’s Phil met Sue and their love blossomed resulting in them tying the knot in 1982 with a wedding reception at Stafford Rangers , the first ever couple to celebrate their marriage in the social club. Sue had already been watching the Rangers since 1968 and lived on Marston Road. Stuart Chapman actually lodged with Sue & her mum from 1971 to 1976 in a house backing onto the ground.
They were both founding members of STRIPES, formed when the club had little money and Supporters Trusts formed to protect clubs and raise money and influence. Over the years STRIPES raised many thousands of pounds for the club and at its height had over 300 members. It took up a great deal of time and effort and they both attended many meetings with Supporters Direct in an effort to understand the impact a supporter’s trust can have.
Phil was a straightforward man who spoke from the heart. He loved all kinds of sport, hated politics, but loved telling jokes and entertained many with a story often associated with a particular ground and game. A train enthusiast, his hobby resulted in Sue & Phil taking holidays to his beloved Switzerland and the couple made good happy memories. His favourite TV shows were Only Fools & Horses and Last of the Summer Wine. In the 80’s he was a contestant on Noel Edmund’s Telly Addicts where he appeared dressed up as the Flintstones. He enjoyed trivia and loved a good quiz.
Rangers were always close to his heart and his passion demonstrated when he signed his new born son Mark up to the supporters club, on the day he was born. He also played in the supporter’s team over the years and the couple were responsible for organising many players’ reunions. Mick Cullerton continued to speak to Phil most months to talk football. Older fans will remember Phil running the line in the 86/87 season after an official was injured. We beat Conference rivals Northwich 4-1 on a Tuesday night, thanks Phil! He also ran the line for Fraser Woods’s testimonial.
Since his retirement 6 years ago Phil once again put many hours into the club, offering to do any job to help from painting, watering, tidying or as most will fondly remember him, forking the pitch at half and full time. The summer often saw him down at the ground at midnight switching the irrigation on and up again early to switch it off- all to save the club money!
A family funeral is to be held on 20th July and Sue and Mark will be making sure the cortege drives passed Marston Road on the way to the crematorium. Sue & Mark will be holding the wake at Stafford Rangers.
In honour of Phil’s memory his family want to sponsor the first home game of the new season. In death the club will be as important to the family as it was before and hold poignant memories. His passing like other stalwarts and legends is important to recognise and pay tribute to. He was a loyal generous man and fan and we are a better club as a result of his efforts and passion.
Thank You Phil, Rest in Peace.