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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 12:37 GMT
Phillips' uncertain world
Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips celebrates one of his 146 career goals
Phillips in familiar pose after scoring again
BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach claims uncertainty has always played a part in Kevin Phillips' career.

Kevin Phillips may be a thoroughbred among Premiership strikers, yet the Sunderland hit-man remains something of a racing uncertainty.

Two golden boots for topping the goalscoring charts in England and Europe, eight England caps and a reported 12m price-tag on his head suggest the perfect footballer's world.

  Phillips milestones
Born Hitchin 25-7-73
1994: Released by Southampton
1998: Breaks Brian Clough's Sunderland scoring record
1999: England debut v Hungary
2000: Wins Premier League golden boot and European golden shoe
Yet all is not rosy in the Phillips garden.

A hefty question mark stands alongside his ability to make England's World Cup squad, though the 28-year-old striker has yet to be given the chance to prove his doubters wrong.

Wednesday's second-half appearance against the Dutch in Amsterdam marked Phillips' eighth cap, yet he has never played a full 90 minutes for his country.

At club level, however, there are few who doubt Phillips.

It may be that he is destined to join the likes of Clive Allen and Steve Bull in an elite brand of strikers who are prolific on the domestic front without being given their international chance.

No value

Between them, that trio boast 678 career goals but only 21 England caps.

But the uncertainty which surrounds Phillips' future has punctuated his career.

As recently as 1994, Phillips was a non-league full-back with no value.

Released by Southampton, the 20-year-old defender was forced to try his luck in non-league football, joining Baldock Town in between stacking shelves for a living.

Kevin Phillips has failed to complete 90 minutes for England
Phillips has suffered on the England sidelines
A stone's throw from his Hitchin hometown, Phillips was forced to start again from square one and has never looked back.

Peter Reid, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Kevin Keegan have all played their part in Phillips' footballing life.

But none has made a more influential decision than that of Rob Eagles and Dave Moseley, the Baldock management duo that gave Phillips his chance.

The pair saw something in Phillips that Southampton manager Chris Nicholl had missed.

Nicholl showed Phillips the door at The Dell, telling him he was too small to become a professional.

Eagles and Moseley showed him the way forward.

Phillips scored twice in his first game as a striker and, within four months, had been snapped up by Watford.

"I thought he was worth a punt at 10 grand", then-manager Glenn Roeder conceded.

Kevin Phillips with the 1999-2000 golden boot trophy
Phillips won the Premier League golden boot in his first season
He was right.

Phillips scored 24 goals in just 59 league games for Watford before moving to Sunderland for an initial 325,000, a fee which doubled after Phillips cemented his position.

In truth, he did not so much cement it as decorate it in gold leaf.

In his first season at Sunderland, Phillips broke Brian Clough's 36-year-old club goalscoring record, bagging 35 in a season.

The year still ended in the disappointment of play-off defeat but Sunderland cruised to the Premiership the following year, Phillips again top-scoring with 25 despite missing four months with a toe injury.

Then, in his first season in the top division, Phillips hit 30 goals in just 36 league games to claim Europe's golden shoe award.

Ronaldo and Eusebio are among the previous winners, but Phillips became the first English winner with his staggering haul.

His England debut, against Hungary, came in the same season but Phillips remains on the international sidelines after three years of knocking on the England door.

A sign of his remarkable rise came last season when an 18-goal haul was seen as ordinary.

Yet Phillips was still rewarded with a new five-year contract.

Whether or not he sees that deal through remains to be seen, but Tottenham and the rest of Phillips' Premiership suitors will watch his space with interest.

See also:

30 Jan 02 |  Sunderland
Reid feels the heat
Links to more Sunderland stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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