I met Elton John before my debut and hold unique European goal record but now I'm waiting for my next role | The Sun

KEVIN PHILLIPS became a grandad for the first time just over a month ago when new-born Reggie arrived in the world.

They often say that strikers can never top the utopia of scoring goals.

And in terms of net profits, Phillips’ 282 in 660 career games over 19 years is some statistic – just shy of one every two games over.

But humble Kev concedes that along with the birth of his own children, the arrival of the new baby has brought unconditional joy for him and the family.

He said: “Both my daughter, Millie and the little lad are doing absolutely fine. 

“He’s Reggie Rae Phillips, which instantly makes you think of the Kray twins, but believe me the names are completely unrelated!

“It’s been quite a year because I celebrated my landmark 50th birthday at the end of July and now I’ve become a grandad. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The former England striker also walked away from his first management job at South Shields in April this year.

This after leading the Tyne & Wear club to the Northern Premier League title and their first season in the sixth tier of the football pyramid since reforming in 1974.

He added: “After 19 years as a player, I never thought of myself on the management side.

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He has coaching experience at Leicester, Derby and StokeCredit: PA


“But after getting a taste of coaching at Leicester, Derby and Stoke it has been great having my first stint as a manager in my own write at South Shields.

“I am so ambitious to get my next opportunity having won the league with the Mariners last season.”

For any current managerless forward-thinking club looking for an outstanding young coach, Phillips would appear the perfect fit, given his football portfolio.

Here is a driven individual who has overcome rejection as a player and proved so many people wrong during an outstanding career on the pitch.

He bounced back from being rejected as a teenager at Southampton to become the first player since Brian Clough in 1961-62 to score 30 goals in a season for Sunderland.

He won the Premier League Golden Boot in 1999-200 and remains the only English player to win the European Golden Shoe.

Yet it could have been so different after spending two years as an apprentice at Southampton and being told at the age of 18 by then Saints boss Chris Nicholl he was being released.

Phillips said: “I’m not afraid to admit there were a few tears driving home from Southampton to Hertfordshire after that. I was even made to play at right-back because they didn’t think I was big enough to play up front.

“I can never thank my mum and dad enough for keeping me mentally strong. They never wavered in their belief and support that I would become a professional footballer.

“My dad told me that I needed to get fixed up with a local non-league club and it was through one of my mum’s colleagues at her work who knew Ian Allinson – the ex-Arsenal player – who was Baldock Town manager at that time.

“Ian agreed to take a look at me and my career grew from there. It’s amazing to think that without that link to Ian I may have never gone on to achieve what I did as a player.”

“While playing at Baldock, I heard a rumour that a scout from Watford would be coming to watch. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be then Hornets manager Glenn Roeder.

“He positioned himself right behind one of the goals too – obviously to take a close look at my movement as a striker.

“I remember I scored a 25-yard screamer too! This was on the Tuesday night, but I heard nothing until three days later when Ian told me that Glenn had been in touch and they wanted me to train for a full seven days the following week at Watford.

“At the time I was working at my mum’s factory at Sunblest in the warehouse, so I had to tell them I needed a week off to train at Watford. There is no way I was not going to get time off!

“Having been working 12 hour days, training for a couple of hours and then going home felt almost as if I needed to do more.

“Glenn was a brilliant guy, such a big influence on my career. When I lost my dad I was on the floor and didn’t know if I could play football any more. 

“But Glenn became a father figure to me and made me do it for dad. I was devastated when Glenn died two years ago.

“I’ll never forget my Watford debut in 1995. Of all teams it was against Sunderland. And just before I was going out to play the manager introduced me to Elton John!

“I was nervous enough, but then I had to impress Elton too. His knowledge of football is unbelievable. It was quite a start. Sadly, we lost the game 1-0.”

After impressing in three seasons at Vicarage Road with 25 goals in 65 games, Philllips was set to join George Burley at Ipswich and had even driven to Portman Road with his agent fully expecting to sign in 1997.

“Unfortunately the clubs couldn’t agree on a fee and I couldn’t wait for a tribunal. The next thing my agent spoke to Peter Reid at Sunderland – and the rest is history.

“Reidy was another outstanding manager who allowed me the opportunity to do what I loved doing – scoring goals. I was also blessed to have some unbelievable team-mates at Sunderland – in particular Niall Quinn. 

“It was also a time when the club was moving from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light. Playing at the new ground in front of nearly 40,000 was unbelievable. I still get goosebumps when I think back.

“Getting the England call up and playing alongside Alan Shearer will always remain a career high. Playing my first game in Hungary, pulling on an England shirt. There is no greater moment as a footballer.”

After Sunderland, he switched to Southampton in 2003, returning to the club who booted him out as a teenager. 

And then he did the unimaginable by playing for Midland giants Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City all in the space of two years.

Yet such is his persona, he remains popular with all three. “Playing for West Brom in between Villa and Birmingham definitely helped.

“I cannot talk highly enough about playing for all three. I was treated brilliantly by all the fans at each club.”

He then moved to Blackpool linking up with Ian Holloway. He added: “Everyone knows what Ian is like. For me, he was infectious and a joy to play for. 

“When he left and joined Palace and wanted me at Selhurst Park, I couldn’t wait to play for him again. 

“To get the opportunity to score the penalty to get Palace to the Premier League in the play-off final is up there among my great memories, ironically against my old team Watford too.. I was so pleased to be the hero for the Palace fans.

“I thought then that maybe I should retire on that high. But Ollie offered me another chance to play in the Premier League and I couldn’t turn it down.

“Then Leicester got in touch during the 2013-14 season and offered me a chance to play and become a coach at the same time, which proved another great opportunity for me.

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“I would like to think I proved a lot of people wrong who didn’t believe I could make it as a player. I was lucky I had a brilliant family support network. 

“Now I have the same burning desire on the management side. Having won the league last season at South Shields I cannot wait for the next opportunity.”

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