IT says much about a player’s standing in the game when the opposition are queuing up to shower him with praise.
Gus Poyet and up-and-coming hotshot Craig Mackail-Smith made no secret of their admiration for double goalscorer Kevin Phillips, even though he almost single-handedly robbed Brighton of three points and ended their 100 per cent winning start in the Championship.
Poyet’s promoted side, who had opened with wins over Doncaster, Portsmouth and Cardiff, looked on course for another victory after Ashley Barnes as they moved 2-0 ahead five minutes into the second half.
But Phillips hit back with two goals and Poyet said: “I had warned my team about Kevin Phillips.
“You don’t need to look at videos to know all about him.
“He keeps scoring goals. I remember playing against him for Chelsea, when he scored a couple for Sunderland and here he is with two more against us.”
Blackpool beat Brighton in the race to sign Phillips and Poyet added: “We had a good chat with Kevin but couldn’t make it. I’m pleased he is opting to carry on playing.”
Brighton striker Mackail-Smith, who is looking the real deal himself after a £3m summer switch from Peterborough, had nothing but praise for opposite number Phillips.
He said: “Kevin was absolutely fantastic. I used to watch him as a kid at Watford and he’s always been a great finisher.
“I have huge respect for his goalscoring ability. We are very disappointed that we didn’t see the game out, but we got a little complacent and that cost us the match.”
Despite the two dropped points, Poyet was pleased his side remained unbeaten with ten points from four games, which leaves them third in the table, behind Southampton and Derby.
The Brighton boss said: “A lot of people wondered before the season how we would do against clubs like Cardiff and Blackpool, and a four-point return is not bad – no-one expected that.”