Wednesday 30 April 2014
Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips has branded his volley against Chelsea in his debut Barclays Premier League season as his best goal after announcing his decision this week to bring down the curtain on his playing career.
The 40-year-old scored over 250 goals in a professional career spanning more than 20 years, including 92 in the Barclays Premier League, and he fondly recalled his finest strike as the Black Cats blew away UEFA Champions League hopefuls Chelsea in a 4-1 triumph at the Stadium of Light. That result lifted Sunderland to fourth, in a season when Phillips scored 30 league goals. He won the Barclays Premier League Golden Boot and the European Golden Shoe helping the promoted club secure a seventh-place finish.
Speaking on the Official Barclays Premier League Podcast, Phillips said: “I’ve scored some very important goals in my career but my favourite, just for the distance of the goal and the opposition, was against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light when we won 4-1.
“We got battered down there on the first game of the season, 4-0, and it was nice when they came back to the Stadium of Light and we repaid them. I scored a cracking 25-yard volley and that has got to be the best goal that I scored.”
Phillips’ decision to retire comes after helping a club to secure promotion to the Barclays Premier League for the fifth time, this season with Leicester City. The previous campaign ended with the same fate as he scored a penalty in extra-time in the play-off final against Watford to secure Crystal Palace promotion. That momement maintained his career for another year, he says.
"The first one was an amazing feeling, at Sunderland, having lost the play-offs the year before in an unbelievable game at Wembley"
“It’s always tough when you call an end to a long career," Phillips said. "I don’t know anything else other than kicking that piece of leather round a football pitch, so to finally say it’s all over is a bit of a wrench, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while.
“I contemplated retiring at the end of last season but the lure of the Premier League at Palace was too much to turn down and then the chance to come to Leicester, to help them back to the Premier League. Now I just feel it’s the right time.”
Of the five promotion campaigns he has been involved in, Phillips rates the first with Sunderland as just about the best. It came a season on from when Sunderland were denied promotion in a penalty shoot-out defeat by Charlton Athletic after a 4-4 draw in the 1997/98 play-off final.
“The first one was an amazing feeling, at Sunderland, having lost the play-offs the year before in an unbelievable game at Wembley”, he added. “They’ve all been great.”
“Everyone’s said that the best way to go up is through a play-off final, and I had lost three of them so I didn’t believe anyone, but last year I could agree with them. It’s an amazing way to go up, but also this year, having clinched it so early, and then to go on and clinch the title two or three weeks later was great. So, I suppose the ones that come later in your career, you cherish those a little bit more as well.”
"They called Keown 'The Rash' because wherever you went he was all over you!"
The striker’s big break in professional football came relatively late, signing for Watford from non-league Baldock Town at the age of 20 in 1994. Just five years later he fired Sunderland into the Barclays Premier League, having joined in 1997, and he took the top tier of English football by storm, resulting in eight England caps between 1999 and 2001.
During that time he was marked by some of the finest defenders in European football, and Phillips said that Arsenal centre-back Martin Keown was the toughest he had faced.
“They called him 'The Rash', because wherever you went he was over you!" Phillips said of Keown. "He was one of those that I knew I would be in for a tough game and I’m going to try and keep away from Martin Keown, but ultimately at some point you’re going to come across him, and you’re going to feel you’ve come across him. He’s a good fella. I played with him in my England days and playing against him certainly was tough.”
His Barclays Premier League career also included spells at Southampton, Aston Villa and Birmingham City and, although Phillips will not be playing for Leicester in the Barclays Premier League next season, he could be using his experience in a coaching role for the Foxes' 2014/15 campaign.
“I haven’t gone into any detail with [Leicester manager] Nigel Pearson but there’s a position that’s been offered to come on to the first-team coaching staff and I assume it’s just to be there for my experience, to bounce things off, and to try and to help the young strikers, the likes of [Jamie] Vardy, Chris Woods," Phillips said. "We all know that the Premier League is a tough league. If I can help them score goals that would be great.”
On the podcast, Phillips also discussed Sunderland’s recent revival, the impact of Black Cats frontman Connor Wickham and Crystal Palace securing safety in the latest Official Barclays Premier League Podcast. In addition, Manchester United legend Bryan Robson talks about the “winning mentality” of his former team-mate Ryan Giggs, who has been appointed the club’s interim manager. To listen to the podcast, click here.