Obituary: Brian Lewis

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The Independent Culture
BRIAN LEWIS, one of the most versatile performers in English League football throughout the decade and a half from 1960, played an integral part in an extraordinary feat of giant-killing which astounded the sporting world.

In February 1971, the effervescent utility man with the distinctive bow- legged gait was plying his trade on the right flank of humble Colchester United's attack when the Layer Road minnows played host to Don Revie's formidable Leeds United in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Though they were destined to finish the season trophyless, Leeds were, by common consent, the finest team in the land.

Meanwhile Colchester - dubbed "Grandad's Army" due to the preponderance of veterans in their ranks - were about midway in the Fourth Division. So one-sided did the contest appear that even the ritual pre-match tub- thumping about Davids overcoming Goliaths appeared more spurious than usual.

Cue sensation, with Lewis at its heart. Early in proceedings he laid on a goal for former England centre-forward Ray Crawford, then he continued to beaver inspirationally as Crawford added a second, and capped his contribution by delivering a sumptuous lob from which Dave Simmons gave the underdogs a 3-0 advantage. The Elland Road aristocrats clawed back to 3-2 but no further; Lewis, Crawford and company had achieved a soccer miracle.

Not that Lewis needed a one-off glory-day to cement his stature in the game. That was already evident from a career which had taken in Crystal Palace, whom he had served in the League's lower reaches; Second Division Portsmouth, his dearest footballing love; Coventry City, for whom he was bought by Jimmy Hill and whom he helped to clinch the Second Division title in 1967; Luton Town (Third Division) and Oxford United (Second Division). Finally, after leaving Colchester, he returned to Pompey for an enterprising Indian summer.

Lewis occupied every outfield position, but was at his best as an attacking right-half who packed a savage shot, whose sweeping crossfield passes were a trademark, and who was wirily resilient in the tackle. A lovable scamp both on and off the pitch, he was feted by his supporters, especially at Portsmouth, for cheeky dribbles which lured opponents into rash tackles, thus securing free-kicks in menacing situations. Though his only taste of England's top flight was for one term in and out of the Coventry team, he appeared to have the requisite ability for that level.

In 1975 Lewis entered non-League circles with Hastings, then worked in the furniture trade while retaining his contact with the game as a successful youth coach. Passionate about his football - he named his only son after Duncan Edwards, the Manchester United prodigy who perished in the Munich air disaster - Brian Lewis retained his enthusiasm until the end, and was laid to rest wearing the shirt of his beloved Pompey.

Brian Lewis, footballer: born Woking, Surrey 26 January 1943; played for Crystal Palace 1960-63, Portsmouth 1963-67, Coventry City 1967-68, Luton Town 1968-70, Oxford United 1970, Colchester United 1970-72, Ports- mouth 1972-75; married (one son; marriage dissolved); died Bourne-mouth, Dorset 14 December 1998.

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