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Kevin Phillips: My emotional times at St Mary's
KEVIN Phillips has spoken of his tumultous two year spell at Saints which ended with the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2005.
The one-time England striker’s arrival at St Mary’s in the summer of 2003 was seen as a real statement of intent at the time.
Fresh from their FA Cup final appearance and top eight Premier League finish, Phillips – at £3.25m signing - was a marquee signing.
But his time back at Saints - where he was released as a teenager – ended in demotion in May 2005.
“When I joined the club Gordon Strachan was in charge and James Beattie was one of the top strikers in the country and being talked about as being England’s number one choice pretty soon,” Phillips recalled.
“Once I decided to leave Sunderland, which was a wrench because it was where I made my name, it was a great opportunity to link up with a quality manager who had just led the club to the FA Cup final and a striker who was banging in the goals.
“I gave it my all.
“It wasn’t the easiest start as I lost my mum a week before the season started but I put that to one side and scored on my debut and things were looking good.
“But when Gordon left things began to spiral.
“All the chopping and changing gave the players no stability and the club were relegated.
“My two years were filled with lots of emotions.”
Phillips added: “I spoke with Gordon and the place was on the up. They were in Europe that year (2003/04) which was exciting.
“It was a place I knew because I had spent so many years of my life there as youngster, so it felt like I was going back home.
“I was really looking forward to it.
“Once Gordon left things got a little bit harder because he was one of the main reasons I decided to join the football club.”
Things started well for Phillips who was scoring goals regularly during his first season.
However, when Strachan’s departure was confirmed in February 2004, it was all change.
Paul Sturrock was appointed and was to be one of four managers in a year for the club.
There was always talk of unrest under Sturrock and Phillips said: “It’s a close knit club and things do filter down to the playing group.
“We sensed when Paul was given the job there probably was a few raised eyebrows as to whether he was experienced enough to come into a tight knit dressing room and handle experienced international players.
“Once he was appointed, though, as players you have to get behind the manager and give it your all.”
After Sturrock came Steve Wigley, who Phillips rated.
“I enjoyed working under Steve Wigley,” said the striker. “He was a very intelligent man who knew his football.
“When he went it started to become a little bit comical.
“From the dressing room you want that stability. We had a good squad and some good players.
“To keep chopping and changing it cost Southampton in the end.”
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