Kevin Phillips is driven on by the challenge of securing promotion with three different clubs - and wants to play more of a leading role as Blues battle for a place among the elite. Rob Tanner reports.
Kevin Phillips knows what it takes when it comes to promotion from the Coca-Cola Championship.
The 35-year-old striker, who scored the winner for Birmingham City as they beat Queens Park Rangers 1-0 on Saturday lunchtime to go top of the table, has previously achieved promotion with Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion, so he is well-qualified to talk about what is required for Blues to sustain their early-season form if they are to return to the Premier League.
Alex McLeish’s men have dropped only seven points from their opening 10 games and have made a tremendous start to their campaign but Phillips is quick to point out that they are barely a quarter of the way through the season.
“It is too early to say if we have promotion in us,” he said. “Obviously, I joined the club because I thought we had a good chance of getting promotion.
“It is still early days and we are not going to get too carried away but it has been a fantastic start for us.
“We need consistency. The league showed last year that there wasn’t that great level of consistency. Although West Brom won the league we didn’t win it until the last few weeks of the season. If you put together a consistent run you stand a good chance in this league. It has been proved that every team can beat everyother team so a decent run is the key.
“I have been involved in two promotions before, with Sunderland and West Brom, and I am hoping to complete the hat-trick with Birmingham.
“There was a lot of raised eyebrows when I turned down the chance of a deal at West Bromwich Albion because they said I was turning down the chance of playing in the Premier League, but I believe that coming here means I will get another crack at it.
“Hopefully, I will prove myself right in my decision at the end of the season.
“I said when I came here that I came to Blues because I wanted to be challenging for promotion to the Premier league. That keeps you driving forward.
“ I think at this stage of my career what also keeps you going is that you know you haven’t got that long left. When I am finished, probably at the end of next season when I call it a day, you are a long time retired, so I have got to enjoy as much of it as I can.
“There is still a long way to go so let’s not get too carried away. We will enjoy the international break now. This has been a great week for us.
“We have had three tough matches recently [the 2-1 victory at Cardiff City nine days ago, the 1-1 draw at Derby County on Tuesday night and Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off] and to come out of it with seven points is tremendous.”
While Blues are exactly in the position Phillips wanted to be in when he swapped The Hawthorns for St Andrew’s in the summer, the prolific striker isn’t happy with the number of games he has started so far.
The former England striker has started only four of the first 10 league games and admits he would have hoped for more opportunities. However, after his match-winning performance against the big-spending west Londoners, Phillips is crossing his fingers for an extended run in the side.
“I was pleased to start the game today,” he said. “I have my own views on that (McLeish’s policy of striker rotation) but I don’t think I want to comment on that.
“Yes, I want to start as many games as I can and that is why I came here. I have been disappointed I haven’t started as many games as I want to.
“All I can do when I do start is to score and make it difficult for the manager to leave me out.
“I was aware when I came here that the manager would rotate the starts among the strikers but I am disappointed when I don’t start games, as all the strikers are when they are not starting.
“Hopefully, I will get a few games on the bounce now.”