This week’s Premier League hero is Sunderland legend Kevin Phillips. A striker renowned for being a key player in the promotion and relegation battles that his clubs were involved in.
Phillips experienced being promoted to the Premier League a whopping five times but also is no stranger to being relegated from the top flight (three times).
The striker wrote his name into the history books by becoming the only English player to ever receive the European Golden Boot award when he scored 30 league goals for Sunderland in the 1999/00 season.
Another standout highlight came in the 2010/11 season when Birmingham triumphed in the League Cup final by defeating Arsenal 2-1.
Phillips currently stands as the 29th highest goal scorer in the Premier League as he managed to score 92 times in his 263 appearances in the Premier League.
Kevin Mark Phillips was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire on the 25th of July 1973 and began his career as a trainee at Southampton. Phillips was taken on as an apprentice in 1989 but was made to play as a right back as he was seen as being too small to be a striker, standing at 5 foot 7 inches.
Phillips didn’t flourish in the right back position and was released by Southampton in 1991, subsequently signing for semi-pro side Baldock Town. Due to injuries up front, Baldock town manager played Phillips as a striker and he returned the favour by scoring twice in his first game as a forward.
Phillips began to flourish as a striker and was snapped up by Division One side Watford but he moved onto to Sunderland in 1996 when Watford were relegated. Phillips helped Sunderland reach the play-off final in his first season but they lost on penalties to Charlton Athletic so Phillips had to wait until the 1999/00 season to taste his first slice of Premier League football.
Kevin Phillips and Sunderland were back in the top flight in 1999 and football pundit Rodney Marsh predicted that Phillips would flop in the Premier League but the striker proved the pundit wrong by having an outstanding first season. Phillips struck up a lethal partnership with Niall Quinn and they became known as ‘little and large’.
Phillips was awarded the Player of the Month award in October 1999 and ended the season with 30 league goals which meant he was the top scorer in Europe as well as the Premier League. Unfortunately, the Black Cats finished seventh which meant they just missed out on a UEFA Cup place.
Phillips scored 14 league goals in the 2000/01 season including his 104th goal for Sunderland in all competitions which broke the club’s post-war goal scoring record. The rest of the 2000/01 season consisted of injuries and poor form but Sunderland managed to finish seventh again.
Phillips’ goal scoring form dropped to eleven league goals in the 2001/02 season, including a terrible penalty record as he had three consecutive spot kicks saved. However, Phillips became Sunderland’s hero on the final day of the season when he scored in the 1-1 draw against Derby which meant Sunderland would finish 17th and avoid relegation.
Phillips surprisingly pledged his future to a struggling Sunderland despite interest from Arsenal and Tottenham. The 2002/03 season brought competition in the Sunderland strike force in the shape of Tore Andre Flo but Phillips still managed to play 32 out of the 38 Premier League fixtures but he only scored six times which wasn’t enough to help Sunderland avoid relegation as they finished last in the league with an all-time low of 19 points.
Phillips moved on to Southampton in 2003 for £3.25 million and agreed a four year contract with the club. The striker managed to score on his debut in a 2-2 draw against Leicester and he scored again against Tottenham and in a UEFA Cup clash with Steaua Bucharest.
Phillips received a red card the following week in a game against Middlesbrough for kicking out at Franck Queudrue. Phillips’ season began to pick up as he scored ten times in the second half of the season and finished the season with 13 league goals.
The 2004/05 season saw Phillips play up front with Peter Crouch but it wasn’t a great season as he only managed to net ten times and Southampton were relegated after 27 years in the top flight.
Phillips moved onto Aston Villa for £1 million and agreed a two year contract with the Villans. It only took Phillips four minutes to score his first goal in a Villa shirt and he also helped his new side defeat rivals Birmingham. Phillips ended the season with only four goals as he played up front with Juan Pablo Angel and then moved on to West Brom Albion in late 2006.
Phillips spent two seasons in the Championship with West Brom before moving on to newly relegated Birmingham in 2008, helping his new side return to the Premier League the following season. Phillips was 36 when he returned to the Premier League with Birmingham and knew he would be on the bench for the majority of the time in the 2009/10 season.
This is exactly what happened as he only played 19 times in the league and scored four times as Birmingham finished 9th, which was the club’s highest finish in 50 years. The 2010/11 season was a mixed bag for Birmingham as they lifted the League Cup after defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the final but they were then relegated at the end of the season.
Following this, Phillips signed for Championship side Blackpool on a one year deal on the 10th of July 2011 and finished his first season at the club as their top scorer. The forward then extended his deal at the club to another year but didn’t impress enough and ended up following former manager Ian Holloway to Crystal Palace.
Phillips became a hero again as he converted an extra time penalty in the play-off final against Watford which resulted in Crystal Palace becoming a Premier League side once again.
Phillips’ loan deal ended but he agreed a one year deal with Palace on the 20th of July 2013 but couldn’t break into the Premier League team so he left the club in December that year.
Phillips was snapped up by Leicester City on the 15th of January 2014 and was a key member of another team that won promotion to the Premier League. In the summer of 2014, Phillips retired from professional football at the age of 41 and is now currently a coach at Leicester City.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena