Kevin Phillips gives the fascinating inside track on the partnerships that made him a Sunderland legend

Kevin Phillips arrived on Wearside relatively unknown but by the end of his first season, he had 35 goals to his name.

Thursday, 16th April 2020, 4:32 pm

That season ended in heartache at Wembley but the foundations were in place for some of the most exciting campaigns in the club’s modern history.

Phillips has discussed his rise from non-league to international football, via the European Golden Shoe, in an in-depth interview with Sunderland’s non-executive director David Jones.

He gave some brilliant insight into the partnerships forged in that first season that would launch the career of a club legend…..

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“One of the biggest players for me was Nicky,” Phillips said.

“Nicky was for me one of the best crossers of the ball.

“I was fortunate enough to get in the England squad and play with arguably one of the world’s best crossers of a ball in David Beckham.

Kevin Phillips scores against Chelsea

“I always compare Nicky to David in terms of their quality of balls into the box.

“If you made the run, they would find you.

“Nicky wasn’t blessed with pace, but the quality he had was he didn’t need to take the full-back on get his cross in.

“He could shift it onto his right foot and whip it in behind the centre-half.

“I knew it was coming so I knew if I made the run, he would find me.”


“Allan Johnston was a little bit different, he liked to drive inside and play little one-twos, inside balls down the side,” Phillips explained.

“Micky would overlap and he could play a little reverse pass for Micky then to cross in.

“The relationship I build with those wide players was key in that first season.”


“It just happened,” Phillips admitted.

“When I first went to the club Niall was pretty much looking to retire.

“I think he was quite excited by what he saw in training and those early pre-season matches and felt we could strike up a good partnership.

“All Reidy ever said to me and Quinny, was for me never to be more than 10 yards away from him, whether that’s making a run behind him or dropping in front for the knockdown.

“We never worked it on the training ground, we just understood each other.

“Wherever the ball came from, you judge the flight of it.

“If it was going to his head, I’d make a run round him and off him.

“Niall had the great ability to be able to hang in the air, spot my run and find me.

“Not every time, he could come up against some good centre-halves, but the majority of the time he had the quality.

“If the ball is into his chest, I could come in front of him or pull away for someone else to then play me in behind.

“Then I’d take into account where we were on the pitch as well.

“If he’s close to the box, I’d drop in front of him to try and get the shot off or move it out wide to then get into the box.”