Kevin Phillips finds himself at the heart of Crystal Palace’s plotting to pull off a Premier League upset at The Hawthorns tomorrow.
Few outside the Palace camp will rate their chances against a Baggies team eager to get back to winning ways after running into the Luis Suarez show at Liverpool last weekend.
But with the Selhurst Park club in between managers after Ian Holloway’s departure, their most experienced Premier League campaigner has taken on the dual role of player and adviser to caretaker boss Keith Millen as he gets ready for an emotional return to a stadium he made his own.
Super Kev is destined for a place in the legend of Albion thanks to his scoring exploits – never more celebrated than when punishing the gold and black of their Black Country rivals – during two glorious years which saw him rattle in 38 from 71 appearances.
Many Albion fans were disappointed that, having led the club to promotion, he was not retained.
He is guaranteed a warm reception from the supporters but the old competitor in him, however, means that he will be doing everything he can to upset them tomorrow.
“It’s a special place for me and I’m looking forward to going back – I had two amazing years there which I will never forget,” said the 40-year-old.
“But right now I have to focus on Palace and they will respect that.
“I don’t know what sort of role I will get, if any, for the game as a player, but I have been helping out Keith with one or two things since Ian left.
“I’ve got 10 years of Premier League experience behind me and feel I can contribute from that.
“I’ve been advising him on one or two things and taking a couple of sessions with the boys.
“This is it for me, my last year, and I will be doing everything I can, on and off the pitch, to try to help Palace stay up.”
It’s looking a tough battle for the last of the three Championship clubs to be promoted.
Bottom of the table, they have that solitary victory over Paolo di Canio’s Sunderland but otherwise eight defeats to show for their efforts. Holloway quit openly declaring that he has lost the spirit which he felt had helped Palace gain promotion, but is it really that bad?
“Well, if you had been in training this week you would not think so,” insisted Phillips.
“The players are full of life and relishing each challenge as it comes along.
“I can think of a couple of games here and there where we have been outplayed by the opposition for 30 minutes or 20 minutes. But in most of the games we have been competing.
“The trouble is we all know what the Premier League is like. It’s unforgiving and if you don’t take your chances when they come along, you end up getting beat.
“But it would be wrong for Albion to imagine that there is a team turning up on Saturday ready to roll over. Not a bit of it. We have been preparing well and constructing a game plan to stop them.
“It’s not going to be easy because they are playing some super football this season, we are very aware of that.
“But there are always Premier League results which surprise you and we intend to do everything we can to make Saturday one of them.”
Phillips, who lives in Staffordshire, is waiting to see who will arrive to take up the fight following Holloway’s departure. Two ex-managers he knows only too well, Martin O’Neill and Alex McLeish, are in the mix, along with former Stoke boss Tony Pulis.
Chris Coleman has also been interviewed but there is another strong Albion link in terms of the fans’ affections for the vacancy – a local newspaper poll came out strongly in favour of ex-Baggies boss Roberto Di Matteo being appointed.
“We’re just waiting to see who will come in,” adds Phillips. “But I will dedicate my last year to offering all the help I can.
“This will definitely be my last season which means it will be my last visit to The Hawthorns as a player and that makes it a special day. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends.”