Phillips still has passion for game
Kevin Phillips says a deep-rooted love of football and a lot of hard work has allowed him to play Premier League football into his forties.
After representing England and winning a European Golden Boot during an impressive career, many would have called it quits year ago.
Not Phillips. Rejected by Southampton as a teenager, he played non-league football before making it into the professional game with Watford.
Now, nearly two decades on, he is preparing for another crack at the top flight after penning a one-year deal with Crystal Palace.
The deal means Phillips will become just the third outfield player after Gordon Strachan and Teddy Sheringham to play into his forties, with the big day coming this Thursday.
"I think it is just enthusiasm," he said. "Maybe coming into the game a little bit later helped.
"I didn't really start until I was nearly 21 so maybe I've got an extra two or three years in me.
"I just love the game of football, I enjoy playing it and for me it doesn't get any easier. It gets harder but I enjoy the hard work, I enjoy the competition of trying to keep as fit as these young boys.
"I am trying to keep myself up there in the running groups, at the top with the boys.
"I am up there with only two that have done it before and Giggsy will be there this year, so I am absolutely delighted.
"I never expected I would still be playing at this age so I can't take it for granted."
Phillips had spoken about calling it quits for the past few years, but he could not turn down the chance of playing again in the Premier League and, more importantly, under Ian Holloway.
Having signed him while Blackpool manager, he re-signed him on loan until the end of last season when he moved to south London.
Phillips went on to play a vital part in Palace's success and scored the goal that secured promotion via the play-offs at Wembley.
"The last two seasons I have said that's it, but I have had an incredible couple of years," he said.
"Working alongside Ian, he has faith in me and I said after the final there are not many managers that would give a player touching 40 as many minutes as he gives me.
"You can only do that if you produce the goods for him. I still feel I can do a job and he wouldn't have signed me otherwise.
"I am delighted my future has been sorted out for the next season and I am really looking forward to get going."
Phillips got his first pre-season action under his belt on Saturday, playing the first half of Palace's 2-1 win at Dagenham and Redbridge.
The veteran will again take to the field against Gillingham on Tuesday night after signing a deal that took longer to sort than was expected.
"It wasn't straightforward," the Midlands-based striker said. "I can understand it from the chairman's point of view.
"I suppose it is not very often that you're doing a deal with a 40 year-old, so I said at the end of the season it had to be right for both parties.
"It took a bit longer than we anticipated, but in the end I think both sides are happy and I am delighted to put pen to paper.
"There was a sniff from a couple of other Premier League teams. They were very interested but this was the only place I wanted to be.
"They were established Premier League teams but this is the only club I wanted to play for.
"I could have gone home, gone nearer, but I've committed myself here and I am certainly looking forward to it."
Phillips is "99.9 per cent sure" he will retire at the end of this coming season.
Retiring on top is how the striker always wanted to leave the game and hopes he can help Palace avoid relegation - ambitions that means there will be no extravagant birthday celebrations this Thursday.
"My family, my missus and my kids want to do something but, ever the professional, I don't want to celebrate," he said. "I'll be training on Thursday.
"I will probably wait until the first international break and look to do something then.
"For now, I am fully focused on getting completely match fit and I don't want to let anyone down this season.
"It will almost certainly be my last season and I want to go out with a bang."