The Unforgettable Golden Boot Of Kevin Phillips

Golden Boot

We always love to welcome back old friends to Roker Report and none more so than this gentleman. Sunderland fan and published historian Mark Metcalf has a new book out and you can get a taste of it here. Bafflingly, the editor of Sunderland's own matchday programmes seems to think this isn't worth a mention, but we can't get enough of Mark.

Co-authored with Tony Matthews 'Golden Boot' features every player who has finished as top scorer in Division One/Premier League since 1888. Six Sunderland players are included - Johnny Campbell [who is one of a unique band to finish top of the charts for three seasons], George Holley, Charlie Buchan, David Halliday, Dickie Davis and Kevin Phillips.

In addition there's loads of local lads who achieved the feat with other clubs such as Jimmy Trotter at Sheffield Wednesday and Pop Robson at West Ham United.

I am sure you are all frantically wondering how you can get your grubby little mitts on this tasty product. Online giants Amazon are carry some stock. You can also get it direct from the publishers, Amberley, and your local branch of book retailer Waterstones will shortly be stocking it too.

Name: PHILLIPS, Kevin
Season: 1999-2000
Goals scored: 30 (out of 57) 13 home, 17 away
Percentage: 53%
Runner-up: Alan Shearer (Newcastle United) 23
Sunderland finished seventh
Partner Niall Quinn scored 14 times, the pair scoring 77% of Sunderland’s goals

When Sunderland roared to promotion to the Premier League with a then record number of points in 1999 cynics such as Rodney Marsh scoffed at Wearside fans’ predictions that 26-year-old Kevin Phillips would repeat his goal scoring exploits of the previous two seasons when he’d rammed home 60 goals in 78 games.

Yet with his quick feet, nimble skills, speed and an instinctive finish Phillips was always going to be a danger to even the toughest of defences. Especially as he had playing alongside him the experienced Niall Quinn who supplied with a selection of superb crosses from wing-man Nicky Summerbee, could always be relied upon to pick out his partner in the box.

Phillips, capped the previous season for England, had never previously played in the top flight of English football and he, and the rest of his team, were given a rude opening day awakening when Chelsea thrashed Sunderland 4-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Three days later came a much easier challenge against another promoted side Watford. A dubious penalty gave Phillips an early opportunity and then four minutes from the end he scored with a wonderful curling 25 yard shot past Chris Day. Eleven days later, and the man who had to drop down from Southampton to play for Baldock Town for two years before getting a second chance with Watford in 1994, had his third of the season, another penalty away to Leeds in a 2-1 defeat.

Four days later Sunderland travelled to face local rivals Newcastle. Not having beaten ‘the Mags’ since 1979 the few hundred away fans allowed into a redeveloping St James’ Park, engulfed by a torrential downpour that left them soaked through, feared the worst when half-time arrived with the home side a goal to the good.

There was therefore ecstasy when Quinn headed the equaliser from a Summerbee free-kick. With the ball by now hardly able to roll Phillips then conjured a winner of real class when having seen his first shot saved by Tommy Wright he spun backward towards the ball and clipped it over the ‘keeper and beyond the retreating defenders before it dropped into the net. After that it was a matter of Sunderland defending deeply to give their supporters local bragging rights.

There was no stopping Phillips after this goal. A cracking bicycle kick earning a 1-1 draw with Coventry came next, and when he was stopped from hitting the net in a 2-0 home victory over Leicester it cost his marker, Foxes captain Gerry Taggart two yellow cards and an early bath. On September 18th the 5’ 7" forward grabbed his first Premier League hat-trick as Sunderland thrashed Derby County 5-0 at Pride Park. Bradford City at Valley Parade did slightly better, but with two goals in a 4-0 win Phillips already had ten to make him top scorer in a side second in the League. When two more followed at home to Aston Villa Phillips was already well on the way to achieving his personal target of 20 League goals come the season’s end, especially as he scored another away goal in the following game at Upton Park in a 1-1 draw.

By now Phillips was becoming a Sunderland legend and even when he managed to miss a late penalty away to Middlesbrough it mattered little as Michael Reddy knocked in the rebound to give his side a point.

On December 4th 1999 Phillips and Sunderland provided a match that many of their followers still regularly recall. Generally agreed to be the best game ever staged at the Stadium of Light since it opened in July 1997 it saw Chelsea, first day conquerors, ravaged 4-1 after a sparkling first half display saw the hosts four to the good at half time. Quinn had opened the scoring on just 44 seconds before on 23 minutes Phillips pounced on a loose ball around 30 yards out and with Chelsea keeper Edwin de Goey only just off his line he belted a shot that flew beyond him for an absolutely stunning goal. Ten minutes later he’d added his second, a casual flick from eight yards out.

Phillips was now an essential member of a side pushing towards the top of the League and when he missed the match at Goodison Park on Boxing Day Sunderland slumped 5-0. Back in the side he rattled home his twentieth League goal in the match with Leeds.

At home to Newcastle United, after the away side took a two-goal lead, it was vital for Sunderland to get back into the game quickly. Phillips was the player who did it, slotting the ball under Steve Harper’s legs to make it 1-2 at half-time. Things still looked a little bleak when the scoreline remained the same with just eight minutes remaining before seizing on a loose ball inside the box Phillips nutmegged the keeper for an equaliser that sparked a small pitch invasion amongst the delirious home crowd. Phillips now had 22 goals, eight more even than the legendary Alan Shearer in the black and white striped opponents’ shirts.

Despite the relief of a late point Sunderland were now in free-fall with the exciting attacking football they’d maintained following promotion making way for uncertainty at the back and in midfield. Phillips scored another goal at Highfield Road but saw his side beaten 3-2 by Coventry City and when Emile Heskey and Stan Collymore ran riot at Filbert Street Sunderland slumped 5-2. There was therefore relief when a late Phillips penalty at Anfield gave Peter Reid’s side a point against the team the manager supported as a boy. Things looked even brighter when the former Evertonian saw the Toffees come unstuck when Phillips hit a late winner for Sunderland’s first win of 2000. This renewed hopes of a European place especially when it was followed by a 2-1 win at the Dell where Phillips netted a penalty.

At Hillsborough in front of a good number of travelling fans Phillips, with just four minutes remaining, beat Sheffield Wednesday keeper Kevin Pressman with a curling 25 yard shot and minute later followed up with neat close in finish to ensure a 2-0 victory.

However, when relegated threatened Bradford City tore up the pre-match predictions by winning 1-0 at the Stadium of Light it was clear that the form of the second half of the season was going to prevent Sunderland qualifying for the first time ever for Europe through a high place League finish.

Not that the disappointment prevented fans celebrating wildly when in the final home game of the season Phillips hit his 30th League goal of the campaign. It came on 14 minutes when he headed home a Nicky Summerbee cross in a mediocre match that finished 1-1. Amongst the first to congratulate him was Niall Quinn, who himself got 14 Premier League goals in 1999-2000. This meant that between them the two had scored 44 of Sunderland’s 57 goals that season, exactly 77%.

Phillips’s 30 goals not only earned him the Premiership Golden Boot but also the European Golden Boot awarded to the top scorer in the leading European Leagues in a particular season. Despite this, England manager Kevin Keegan overlooked Phillips during the European Championship Finals matches in the summer of 2000. Phillips was to play eight times for his country, but failed to score on any occasion.

Following Sunderland’s relegation at the end of the 2002-03 season Phillips signed for Southampton, ending six seasons at the Stadium of Light that included 60 Premiership goals in 139 appearances.

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Thank you to Mark for spoiling us once again. Remember you can check out Mark's own website for details on his range of Sunderland AFC related books, as well as general football interest ones, HERE.

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