Martin ‘Buster’ Phillips began his career as a trainee with Exeter City and, after making more than fifty league appearances for the Grecians, moved on to Manchester City and Portsmouth before having lengthier spells with Plymouth Argyle and Torquay United.
Martin joined Exeter City as a trainee in 1992 and, regarded as an outstanding youth talent, had already made his league debut at Wigan Athletic in January 1993 when he turned professional at the age of eighteen in July 1994. Shining in a poor team during 1994/95, Martin’s bright form continued into the following season with a memorable injury-time winner against Fulham in September 1995. Still only nineteen he had clocked up around 65 league and cup appearances for the Grecians when, regarded as a rising star from the lower divisions, Manchester City successfully bid £500,000 for Martin’s services in November 1995. A club record amount, which saved the Grecians from mounting financial issues, helped Martin leave St James’ Park with the best wishes of all concerned and with the ringing endorsement of former Exeter manager Alan Ball who was now in charge of the Maine Road club.
Martin struggled to establish himself in Manchester and had just 15 league outings in nearly three years with the club. Loaned to Scunthorpe in January 1998, Martin returned to Exeter City on a similar basis in March 1998. Having just celebrated his 22nd birthday, in a season during which he failed to make a first-team appearance for Manchester City, Martin made his reappearance for the Grecians as a substitute against Mansfield 21 March 1998. He subsequently started seven games finishing with an end-of-season appearance against Macclesfield.
Returning to Manchester City, Martin joined Alan Ball once again when he moved to Portsmouth in a £100,000 transfer in August 1998. Scoring once in 24 league appearances for Pompey (nearly all of which were from the bench), and having spent time on loan to Bristol Rovers, Martin returned to Devon when joining Plymouth Argyle in a £25,000 deal in August 2000. Enjoying the most productive phase of his career, Martin made 114 league appearances for Argyle playing in championship-winning squads in 2002 and 2004. Suffering from injury during much of the 2003/04 campaign, Martin’s contribution to Argyle’s second success was relatively limited and he soon left to join Torquay United where he was to make a further 70 league appearances in a team that was to be relegated from the third-tier ahead of struggling in the level below.
Featuring less-often during 2006/07, Martin - at the age thirty-one - was forced to retire in May 2007 due to chronic fatigue syndrome having made 288 Football League appearances for his various clubs scoring 22 goals along the way. He later settled in Somerset running a coaching business that specialising in working with primary schools.