KEVIN Phillips’ reaction to being substituted on Saturday tells you everything you need to know about his hunger and appetite for the game.
Most 38-year-olds might have been delighted to be taken off ten minutes from the end.
Phillips’ response to seeing his number held up by the fourth official during the 3-1 win over Brighton? A quick shake of the head and a three-fingered gesture to his manager.
The gesture, it’s prudent to add, was nothing rude. He was just reminding the boss that he was on for a hat-trick and wouldn’t have minded staying on.
Holloway said: “It speaks volumes about him – he still loves football as much now as he did when he was 21.
“He was upset when I took him off, saying, ‘What about letting me go for the hat-trick?’
“But we have a big game tonight, and another on Saturday (at leaders Southampton), so I am trying to look after the old man, as I call him.
“He has been brilliant for us all season, and with nine games to go I want him available for them all. That’s why I took him off.”
It’s true that Phillips has once again become a key man.
That might sound an odd thing to say about a striker who is top scorer with 15 goals. Surely he’s always been a key man? Well, not quite, for between October and February – a run of 18 league games – Phillips didn’t make a single start.
It was almost as if he had been earmarked as a super sub and that’s how he’d see out the season.
But all that changed when Phillips came on 34 minutes into the mauling at the hands of West Ham and headed past Robert Green to give an embarrassing evening at least an air of respectability.
He was the best Blackpool player on the pitch and it prompted Holloway to play him from the start again.
The only game he hasn’t started since was at Peterborough. Enough said.
Against Brighton on Saturday he looked superb. And in Phillips, Pool have a frontman who not only knows how to win promotion but is fresh from spending a large chunk of the campaign on the bench.
Holloway added: “Kev is such a great player to have, whether from the start or off the bench. Other teams fear him because they know what he can do and the goalscoring record he has got.
“He came into the game late, because he was in non-league football for a long while, and I genuinely believe he is getting better and better the older he gets.
“I don’t think I’d swap him for any other striker. The fella is terrific and if I had a hat I’d take it off to him.”
Phillips was a substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester in November, coming on with 25 minutes to go. Tonight there is no doubt he will start and, with the form he’s in, the Foxes had better watch out.