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.
Phillips earned his first call-up after a stunning start to his Sunderland, and an even more remarkable campaign in the Premier League sealed his place in Kevin Keegan’s squad.
The former Black Cats striker didn’t play a minute as England were dumped out in the group stages.
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“At the beginning [of my England career], there were a lot of cliques,” Phillips said.
“Nowadays Gareth Southgate is trying to do it so everyone is in it together.
“There was only myself and Micky Gray when I first went and it was tough.
“I didn't really know anyone and I didn't really feel part of it.
“Kevin Keegan was excellent in trying to integrate me into the squad but it was tough.
“I think I probably deserved more than eight caps but I'm not bitter about it because look at the players I was competing against.
“You had Shearer, Owen, Fowler, Sheringham, Heskey, Le Tissier, Sutton, Cole, Ferdinand....
“I feel privileged to have got eight caps.
“The thing that probably annoys me is not getting any time on the pitch in Euro 2000, when we got knocked out in the group stages.”
Phillips was unable to forge a productive partnership with Alan Shearer in the build-up to the campaign, which perhaps proved pivotal in the games that followed.
“Kevin tried me up front with Alan two or three times and it just didn't quite work for whatever reason.
“I didn't feel there was a rivalry between us because of who we played for.
“There were times when I felt he could have passed to me but that's football, there were times when I should have passed to Niall but I didn't because I was being selfish.
“That's what top quality strikers are.
“It was just one of those things, I was just unfortunate in who I was competing against.”