Blackpool's Kevin Phillips eyes long-awaited play-off win

By Phil CartwrightBBC North West Sport
Blackpool striker Kevin Phillips

Historically, Kevin Phillips is not fond of play-off finals.

His record reads: played two, lost two.

But the trip to Wembley on Saturday, when Blackpool play West Ham for a place in the Premier League, gives the 38-year-old a chance to right the wrongs of defeats with Sunderland in 1998 and West Bromwich Albion in 2007.

"I'm certainly looking forward to it," Phillips told BBC Sport. "At this stage of my career, I'm enjoying every day, let alone looking forward to a play-off final.

"To still be mixing it with excellent players and the club going to a final is magical for me.

"The Premier League is the place to be. It's a huge occasion for the players because I would say it's the most expensive game in world soccer. There's a lot of pressure on but it would mean everything to the football club."

Phillips's record in play-off finals is in direct contrast to that of his club, who have been promoted via the play-offs on four occasions - 1992, 2001, 2007 and most notably in 2010, when they beat Cardiff 3-2 to secure a return to the top-flight after an absence of 39 years.

Rarely are these games dull affairs, as Phillips found out in arguably the greatest play-off final in history 14 years ago.

He scored early in the second half to put Sunderland 2-1 ahead against Charlton, but was later substituted and could only watch from the sidelines as the match finished 4-4 after extra time, before Michael Gray missed a decisive spot-kick in the resulting penalty shoot-out.

Nine years later, after scoring three times for Albion in the semi-final win over Black Country rivals Wolves, he could not reproduce the same goalscoring form in the final as the Baggies lost 1-0 to Derby.

If Blackpool are to seal an instant return to the top flight, 363 days after their relegation from the Premier League, there is a good chance that the name of Phillips will be on the scoresheet at Wembley.

But while Kevin is approaching the end of a glittering career that has seen him score more than 250 goals, winger Matt Phillips is considered to be one of the hottest properties outside the top division.

The 21-year-old has been in terrific form since returning from a loan spell in League One with Sheffield United in November, and he believes the mixture of youth and experience in the Blackpool squad, particularly in attack, has been pivotal in their run to Wembley.

"We're pleased with the form that Tom Ince, myself, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Stephen Dobbie have been in recently," said the former Wycombe man.

"We feel that we can always go and score goals. Attacking is what we're best at.

"There are four more players that can come in. We've got the likes of Lomano LuaLua and Kevin, who has been unbelievable. He scores goals for fun.

"There's a mixture of young and old players, and praise needs to go to the manager because of the type of players that we've got here."

As for the elder Phillips in the Blackpool squad, he has the option to extend his contract by another 12 months at Bloomfield Road.

It is difficult to argue with his scoring record of 17 goals in 44 appearances this season, especially as he has only started in 23 of those matches.

And even though he will have turned 39 by the time next season begins in August, he quite fancies another crack at the Premier League.

"I'm pretty sure there wasn't one supporter who believed I could score that amount of goals at my age," said the former England international.

"But I believed I could and the manager believed it. That's why he brought me to the club.

"I still feel that I can do it next season here, whether it's in the Premier League or the Championship. I've really enjoyed it."

Interview with BBC Radio 5 Live's Juliette Ferrington and BBC Radio Lancashire's Gary Hickson.

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