Liverpool loan star will always enjoy cult hero status at Anfield

In an era where centre-halves are expected to be as strong on the ground as they are in the air, Nat Phillips remains something of a throwback. He is capable of spraying a 20-yard pass out to the flanks, but you get the sense that he takes greater enjoyment from jumping into row Z after scything through an opponent.

For him, the ball is there to head and kick, rather than be manipulated through the lines with intricate touches and clever flicks. There is plenty to be said for his favoured approach, even when modern-day philosophies demand something a little more refined.

For every Virgil van Dijk, there will always be a place for a Phillips to do the dirty work alongside him. Liverpool embraced those qualities in 2020-21, but have allowed them to head elsewhere in the current campaign.

Nathaniel Phillips

With competition for places fierce at Anfield, Phillips is currently chasing down promotion with a Bournemouth side that are 1/10 in Championship betting odds to secure a top-two finish in the second tier. A loan move completed during the winter transfer window has an altogether different set of targets to be drawn up.

Phillips could, having committed to a new contract through to 2025 with his parent club, have taken the easy option in January and continued to fill back-up duties on Merseyside. He would have seen minutes in cup competitions and may have ended up getting his hands on a trophy or two.

Personal ambition, though, saw him head for the exits once an opportunity to take in more regular game time presented itself elsewhere.

Moving on?

Phillips’ decision to swap the North West for the South Coast has been justified, with Bournemouth buying into the obvious qualities that he has to offer. His no-nonsense approach is perfectly suited to life in the Championship, where contests can rely a little more on graft than guile.

A promotion party at the Vitality Stadium in May would provide a fitting finale to the end of an initial loan agreement for a commanding defender, but it may be that there are more chapters to be written after a permanent move is made.

Nathaniel Phillips

Phillips has said of his time with the Cherries: “I’m very much enjoying being here.” Bournemouth boss Scott Parker has added on his chance of retaining the services of a man who has 20 Premier League appearances to his name: “Maybe, hopefully. At this moment in time, that has not really been discussed.”

Those talks can be expected to take place sooner rather than later. Securing return tickets to the top-flight has to remain a priority for now, but recruitment decisions also need to be made.

Phillips would likely jump at the chance to remain in his current surroundings, particularly if a meeting with Liverpool is added to his schedule for 2022-23. Nobody at Anfield would hold it against him if a parting of ways were to be put in place.

For those on Merseyside, there will always be memories of a Man of the Match showing against RB Leipzig, a goal at Burnley, and a memorable performance against AC Milan at San Siro that was put in with a fractured cheekbone.

Phillips put his body on the line for the good of Liverpool’s cause after being asked to provide cover for the absent Van Dijk and let nobody down after being thrown in at the deep end. For that reason, there will always be a special place in the heart of Reds fans for the most unlikely of cult heroes.

Michael Mongie
Football Central Media Group founder, owner and editor.


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