Stuck in the Middlesbrough with you - Tom Hughes
8:56am Monday 18th February 2013 in Sport
I’d thought about calling this weekly column ‘Cast-Iron’ since I’d read that the drainage columns on the great Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851 had been made from cast iron.
As this slot transports the Crystal Palace drainage from my brain to your computer, it seemed weirdly logical. Honestly though, I’m glad I didn’t go with it. It sounds too much like a Sheffield-based industrial metal band.
After all, names are important. In football’s cosmopolitan era Kevin Phillips doesn’t read like much. It certainly isn’t as exotic as Andre Moritz, as unpronounceable as Kagisho Dikgacoi or as interesting as Jazz Richards.
But while it isn’t enigmatic, the number nine’s name carries with it a pedigree and a hard-earned reputation that terrifies defenders.
Now that he will be a permanent super-sub, the moment the opposition hears “KEVIN PHILLIPS” boom out from the tannoy matters nearly as much as his awareness, finishing and intelligent movement.
You might be able to make more religious holiday puns when it’s Jermaine Easter’s name that’s announced, but hearing that ring out over the PA system alarms the fans in red and blue more than anyone else.
In his first two second-half appearances for the Eagles against Charlton and Watford, Phillips tormented our rivals, helping to turn both games around for a win and a draw. Not single-handedly, but his influence was fantastic.
Against Boro, Phillips’s impact was less essential with the whole team already shining brightly. Nevertheless, the moment his number was held up by the fourth official it can’t have done anything but unnerve the opposition at a time in the match when their hopes were fading fast.
Now they had even more to contend with than goal-machine Murray, Zaha et al.
Phillips’s practiced strike put the game to bed after Boro had clawed one back, and it was a lesson in calm finishing to make up for a sub-standard first touch.
The real joy of being able to scare opposition with his introduction is reflective of how long it’s been since Palace have been able to throw on substitutes that inspire excitement and change games.
In recent seasons, substitutes have simply been fresh bodies to relieve tired first choices, whereas now they’re intriguing propositions and finally something resembling squad depth.
Phillips continues to be happy to reiterate that the reputation associated with his name is justified and defenders still have cause for concern whenever he takes to the field.
It’s as if the only thing getting old, are jokes about his age.
Follow Thomas @thughes0197