IAN Holloway has saluted Kevin Phillips for proving he is still top-class – and says the evergreen striker is sure to be in the goals again next season.
Some doubters thought Phillips might struggle to produce the goods after joining the Seasiders last summer.
The frontman had spent the previous two years largely warming the bench at Birmingham, but arrived at Bloomfield Road on a free transfer 12 months ago, determined to show he could still deliver.
Four goals in his first four games blew away any concerns, and Phillips – who turns 39 next month – went on to score 17 during the course of the campaign.
Proof of his standing in the game came at the end of the season, when he was named seventh best player in the Championship in a vote by the division’s managers. Southampton’s Rickie Lambert topped the poll, but Holloway felt Phillips fully merited his high finish.
And he expects the veteran to play a similarly important role next term.
“Kev is a class act, always has been and always will be, and he showed us all last year exactly how good he is,” said Holloway.
“Certain people are born to put the ball in the back of the net. You can’t teach it, it’s a natural thing, and Kev is one of those who can just do it and make it look easy. Because of that his age is irrelevant, he’ll always do it.
“I smiled when I saw he was voted as one of the top 10 players in the Championship, because he completely and utterly deserves to be. I’m running out of things to say about him really, because the bloke is just top notch, one of the best people I have ever worked with.
“I knew he was good because I’d watched him for years on the TV, but I never realised just how good he was. He is like Ryan Giggs in that he has looked after himself, and been producing superb performances for more than 20 years now. To still be as fit as he is at the age of 38 is a credit to himself, and some of the goals he scored last season were stunning. He was top scorer at our club for a reason, because he knows exactly where the net is, and a good striker never loses that, no matter what his age is.
“Bringing him here last summer was a brilliant bit of business by us and I’m so glad we were able to make it happen. Blimey, even now I still have to pinch myself to think that we’ve got Kevin Phillips at Blackpool … I never thought I’d see the day.”
Phillips won the Seasiders goal of the season award for his strike at Cardiff in March, when he controlled the ball on his chest and sent a looping volley into the top corner.
The frontman says he will retire next summer, just before he turns 40, and concentrate on establishing a career in either the media, or as a coach.