Nat Phillips is at the center of a lot of speculation around his career right now. The no nonsense center back was initially going to be sent on loan again last season, but the deal fell through at the last minute. Instead, Phillips became a cult hero for Liverpool FC fans as he stepped in and helped the Reds scramble for a top four spot after literally all other center backs on the senior team roster suffered season ending injuries.
Phillips is now at a crossroads in his career. Now 24 years old, he is no longer a youth prospect. He showed he has what it takes to be a solid defender in the Premier League last season. For Liverpool this season, however he will likely be no better than 5th choice now that Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip are healthy again (I know, for now), and Ibrahima Konate was brought in.
Other teams are sure to be interested in Phillips, but he has made no waves publicly about making a move away. Phillips is now in Austria with the rest of the Liverpool squad for preseason, and he took some time to answer questions from Liverpoolfc.com. While he may not know where he will ultimately end up this season, Phillips is just excited to be back and training again.
“Obviously it’s nice to have a break after an intense season but it doesn’t take long before you start missing it again so I’m really excited to get training and have a bit of competition with the lads, and obviously just get the feel of the ball again.”
For Phillips, the camaraderie is a major part of preseason, even with the players he will potentially be vying for minutes against.
“It’s been really nice - especially some of the lads who are injured as well, to see them back and knowing they can get involved in training. Seeing all the lads and the staff, it’s nice to be back amongst a footballing family.”
Liverpool will have a more normal preseason this year in Austria after the uncertainty during the covid pandemic last year. Being able to get away and built togetherness has been a hallmark under Klopp. Nat Phillips enjoys that aspect of getting away with the squad as well.
“I find the biggest benefit of the change of scenery with pre-season is that you’re all staying in a hotel together. You spend a lot of time with each other and any new lads that might come in, they can start to integrate into the group and we’re also being looked after 24/7 in terms of physios, diet and all that sort of stuff. It just gets you in the best shape possible to start the season properly.”
Of course, preseason isn’t all fun trust falls and karaoke. While it is a time for everyone to build relationships, it’s also a time to work. And under Klopp, the work is hard. While the players were given time off, they were still expected to work on getting fit before heading to preseason camp.
“We get sent our programmes, which you have to do, and we’re always being tracked. You get your GPS monitor so even if you wanted to try to give it a miss you wouldn’t get away with it! But obviously we don’t want to do that, we want to come back feeling good, so that’s what I did: a bit of training at home, I managed to get away for a few days and got a bit of training done there, and I’m feeling ready to kick on with training.”
And kick on with training they will. Day one is now in the books, and the squad will be putting in the work to get ready for what fans expect to be a title push. For Phillips, he’ll have a chance to prove himself with some of the best central defenders in the game.