What a year 1973 was! Not only did underdog Sunderland triumph in the FA Cup, but a couple of months later down in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, a baby boy was born whose goals would take Sunderland to highs that supporters had not seen since the 1950s.
Little did we know the impact that he would have on our club 24 years later when Sunderland paid an initial £350,000 to secure his services from Watford in July 1997.
The stats speak for themselves - 130 goals in 235 appearances over six years on Wearside, and underline why he’s still one of the city’s most beloved adopted sons, revered even by those who weren’t old enough to see him play in the flesh.
When I was thinking back to the Quinn and Phillips era, the first game that jumped to mind was a cold afternoon at Rotherham away in the FA Cup in early January 1998. My German exchange partner had come over to stay from Hamburg, and I had been raving to him about this brilliant new striker who’d arrived as an unknown quantity six months earlier.
When I had visited Hamburg, I’d been taken see FC St Pauli play in the height of summer - it was shorts, t-shirts and cold beers from fridges behind the stands kind-of-weather - and this was how we replayed the favour; an afternoon standing in the freezing cold in a dilapidated lower-league ground in South Yorkshire, with only cups of weak tea and meat pies of questionable provenance to warm us up.
However, we witnessed the true magic of 3rd round day - Phillips and Quinn put on a hell of a show that afternoon, with Super Kev bagging four of Sunderland’s five goals in a performance that demonstrated why we had remained unbeaten since the middle of October.
This is just one early game marked by Phillips’ quality forward play that’s etched on my memory, and there would be many, many more to come. A Sunderland player winning the European Golden Shoe as the highest scorer in top-flight domestic European football, being selected for England, taking us to promotion and then successive seventh-placed finishes in the Premier League; these were almost unthinkable achievements back in 1997-98.
Now a well-respected coach and number two, each time the Sunderland manager’s job comes up there’s a clamour for Phillips to make a romantic return to his old stomping ground and lead us back to the promised land. It’s never looked remotely likely to happen, but funnier things have happened, and we should never say never...