Matt Phillips happy to be flexible friend in quest for West Brom success
Albion’s Mr Versatile Matt Phillips is relishing his numerous roles in the Baggies squad.
Phillips, 32, is the longest-serving player at The Hawthorns but is enjoying some fine form under Carlos Corberan, under whom he has been a consistent performer aside from a lengthy muscle injury towards the end of last season.
Phillips’ Albion career has often been blighted by fitness setbacks but the winger insists he has worked hard to get into condition.
That will be music to Corberan’s ears, as arguably no Baggies player has managed to reach consistent levels like Phillips under the head coach – particularly after the experienced winger was frozen out under Steve Bruce previously.
Albion missed Phillips badly once he hobbled off during January’s FA Cup replay against Chesterfield but, to the former Blackpool and QPR man’s credit, he has looked back to his sharpest best this term.
And the biggest thing to stand out early on in the new Championship campaign is Phillips’ adaptability. In the first three league games alone he played as a lone striker, as a more natural wide player, and then as a left wing-back.
Phillips said of that: “I’ve said in the past, wherever I’m playing, the manager’s shown the belief in me to go and perform in that position, I’m more than happy to put my best put forward and give my best for the team.”
Asked about playing at left wing-back specifically, he added: “I enjoy it, naturally I’m a winger, I feel that defensively my game improved when I signed for West Brom under Tony Pulis. I’ve managed to take a little bit from each manager I’ve played under and this manager believes I have the defensive capabilities, it’s something I’m enjoying.
“The manager can set us up, defensively you’ve got certain jobs and attacking he wants us in certain areas, but he also – especially in the final third – gives you the freedom to go and bring yourself to the game and to bring those qualities you have an individual.”
That freedom was typified when Albion beat Middlesbrough 4-2 at The Hawthorns and Phillips, who excelled on the day, shot from a left wing-back position to the right of the opposition penalty area to send a fine effort narrowly wide across goal.
He added: “I feel you have to evolve, especially with the way the game’s going now, and if that’s another position the manager sees I can help the team first and foremost, and put in individual performances, it’s only going to be good for me and the team.”
Different positions are nothing new to Phillips. He joined Premier League Blackpool aged 19 and featured regularly, becoming more prominent following relegation to the Championship.
But the winger admits he is now more ready than ever to excel in different roles.
“Manager’s have always played me in different positions, even when I signed at Blackpool at 19 Ian Holloway was playing me as a right-back, it’s always been something I’ve done over time, maybe I’ve not always been as rounded to do those jobs as I am now having learned what I’ve learned,” he continued.
“But it’s definitely a string to your bow, when a manager is showing that belief in you that you can change to position to maybe one not natural to you, but you can still produce and help the team, it’s massive for me.”