Kevin Mark Phillips, may be diminutive in height but he has a presence and aura that is both dynamic and effective, and Ian Holloway’s capture of ‘Super Kev’ on a transfer deadline day loan to Crystal Palace may be pivotal in ‘The Eagles’ attempt to successfully secure promotion to the Premier League this season.
Kevin Phillips comes off the bench to equalize for Crystal Palace at Watford last week
As numerous names and potential Palace targets such as George Boyd, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Albert Adomah and DJ Campbell were banded about during the hectic January transfer window, many Palace fans were bemoaning the fact that Kevin Phillips was even in the frame!
There were still a lot of furrowed brows when he signed for the South London Club on loan until the end of the current season. Phillips was seen by many as a footballing veteran at 39 years young, with over 450 senior starts spread over a career spanning nearly 20 years. Numerous fans questioned the signing of Phillips and the ambition of the club, in what many saw as a gamble on a player who was surely over the hill!
On his move to Palace Phillips was the ‘ultimate pro’ saying exactly what the Club and fans alike wanted to hear: "Every time I pull on a Palace shirt or a training kit I will give 100 per cent and I thoroughly look forward to it. Palace are an exciting team, I enjoyed working under Ian Holloway at Blackpool and I really look forward to working with him from now until the end of the season."
Since joining Palace, Phillips had made two substitute appearances and on both occasions he has been instrumental in a change in fortune on the pitch. Less than two weeks ago the Crystal Palace team trudged off the Selhurst Park pitch at half-time looking crestfallen, after a woeful first-half performance against London rivals Charlton. The visitors had dominated the first 45 minutes and deservedly led at the break. Palace were lacklustre and void of ideas. Holloway took immediate action and the former England striker was handed his debut as a half-time substitute.
|Murray and Phillips (right) celebrate!|
This change in personnel clearly had the desired affect as Phillips helped spark a dramatic turnaround. Two goals from the Championship’s top scorer Glenn Murray secured a dramatic 2-1 victory for Palace, with Phillip’s orchestrating a calm, creative and significant influence on the game.
The Palace manager was naturally delighted by Phillip’s debut and the social message boards were awash with praise for the Hitchin born striker. Sentences containing adjectives such as classy, sublime, nippy, polished and impressive were used to describe the impact Phillips had on the match. As a result many fans were forced to eat at least a little piece of humble pie.
A week later and he was at it again, as Palace rescued a point at high flying Watford, despite going into the break two goals down.
Phillips’ introduction at Vicarage Road 10 minutes after half-time culminated in a non-stop second-half onslaught by a rejuvenated Palace team with Phillips and teenage sensation Jonny Williams playing a father and son age defining double act, culminating in Palace coming away with a well deserved point. Phillips firstly providing a good foil for fellow striker Murray, and secondly getting the all important equalizing goal, as he made a wonderfully timed run into the penalty box to expertly dispatch Jazz Richards’ low cross at the far post - his 243rd career league goal!
I don’t think the first 80 minutes of football played by Phillips in the red and blue shirt should be underestimated, as his introduction on both occasions has been quite simply ‘game changing.’ Most players take a while to settle in at a new club, but not ‘Super Kev.’ He signs for Palace, moves down to the South of England, meets up with his old manager, his new team-mates, has a training session or two, and on match day he puts in a couple of performances that make him look like he has been at the club since the year dot!
Not only is a Phillips a class act on match day, but I am sure his experience and knowledge will rub off on the youth in a Palace squad with some outstanding young talent at its disposal.
Throughout his professional career Kevin Phillips has averaged nearly a goal every other club game and commanded transfer fees with a cumulative total in excess of £5million. Palace are his eighth club since he turned professional in December 1994, and he represented England on eight occasions making his debut against Malta in Ta’Qali in June 2000 under the stewardship of Kevin Keegan, before bowing out of the England set-up, against Holland in the Amsterdam Arena in February 2002 under Sven-Göran Eriksson.
In 1999-2000 Phillips was the Premier League Player of the Season, the Premier League top scorer with 30 goals for Sunderland, a tally which won him both the Premiership Golden Boot and the European Golden Boot. He remains the only Englishman to win the European Golden Boot.
Phillips was a Football League Championship winner and the Football League Championship Player of the Year with West Brom in 2007-08, and a Football League Cup winner with Birmingham City in 2011.
Last season at the tender age of 38, Phillips helped Blackpool reach the Championship play-off final at Wembley, and finished as the club’s leading scorer with 16 Championship goals in 41 appearances.
When speaking on his arrival at Palace, Phillips was visibly grateful to Ian Holloway for bringing him to the club and giving him one final hurrah. He said: "I don't want to let him down (Ian Holloway). He's brought me here and I want to repay the faith he has shown in me".............and believe me, he has already started to repay the belief Holloway showed in him!
Could Mr P be the transfer coup of the season for Crystal Palace? That one individual that brings a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the table every day he is at the Club, whether it be on the training ground, in team meetings or on match day?
Time will tell, but for now it looks like a very shrewd bit of business on the part of Ian Holloway and the owners of Crystal Palace Football Club.
You cannot buy experience, so Mr Kevin Phillips welcome aboard the Crystal Palace rollercoaster! It’s never dull, so hold on tight and enjoy the ride!
# Photos courtesy of the BBC and The Sun Newspaper Group.