Kevin Phillips’ teenage rejection allowed him to become Palace hero

While some Crystal Palace fans might tell you that their five-year stay in the Premier League has felt like twice as long – it has been an emotional ride full of ups and downs – the Eagles are now a fully established top-flight club and the squad they’ve got is proof of that.

None of this might have been possible though, if not for that memorable 2012/13 Championship season in which Palace won the play-offs and thus secured promotion to the Premier League.

Kevin Phillips scored the winner over Watford in the final and thus went down in the Palace history books. Despite having only made 21 appearances for the Eagles, the hitman is a hero.

However, it might not have all been possible if he hadn’t suffered early rejection in his Southampton academy days. The retired striker spoke to Palace’s official website about how he almost became a defender instead:

“I got offered apprenticeship forms at Southampton as a striker. However, when I went in to their full-time training every day, I was still quite small.

Phillips with Palace eagle

“The manager at the time, Dave Marrington, looked at me and basically said to me: ‘listen, until you develop, we have bigger and stronger players in that area at the moment. We can see you’ve got technical ability, we can see you can score a goal but for your development physically, how would you like to have a go at playing in defence, ie: right-back?’

“It wasn’t the greatest of news I wanted to hear but at the end of the day it got me in the team week in, week out. I wanted to play up front but I went in as a right full-back for virtually two years as an apprentice.”

Next, the former Blackpool and Sunderland forward played lower league football with Baldock Town, where he was granted opportunities up front – in a fantastic twist of fate, the Saints would pay big money to bring the reject striker back the south coast in 2003 after spells at Watford and Sunderland.

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Since their promotion, Selhurst Park outfit Palace have been able to attract top players like Mamadou Sakho, Christian Benteke, Luka Milivojevic and – most importantly – keep hold of talisman Wilfried Zaha, none of which they would have been able to do a few years ago.

While the threat of relegation is never quite staved off, Palace are worthy of being a top-half team now and are ready to take the next step with huge improvements to their beloved stadium. They will be counting their lucky stars that Phillips persisted with his goalscoring dreams, then.