Nat Phillips hasn’t played too often during his loan spell at Celtic, but there have been some performances to remind us of his quality.
Three starts in his first three months at Celtic wasn’t what Phillips was hoping for when he joined up with Brendan Rodgers’ team in a defensive injury crisis.
With Cameron Carter-Vickers and a host of others absent, Liverpool’s centre-half was expected to improve the Hoops’ defence, but he simply hasn’t had the chance.
A couple of shining moments in the Champions League have proved he can indeed perform, but Celtic supporters are divided over whether he should stay beyond January.
What was your reaction to signing Phillips on loan?
I’ve never seen an injury crisis like it in my life. We brought [Maik] Nawrocki in and he got injured; we brought [Gustaf] Lagerbielke in and he got injured.
It was absolutely mental, it was like a centre-back curse, so when I heard Nat Phillips‘ name mentioned I was excited as he obviously has Premier League pedigree and has played in the Champions League.
When he came in, I was absolutely delighted.
How has he fitted into the squad at Celtic?
Along with Matt O’Riley, centre-back Liam Scales has probably been our player of the season, and I think that might be what’s kept Phillips out of a lot of the games.
He’s played 270 minutes so far; with four appearances in the league and two appearances in the Champions League.
When he came off as a sub [against Lazio], he started riling the fans up. He was like ‘come on, come on!’
So I thought I like that passion and I like that in him. It’s just unfortunate that he hasn’t been getting to play as many games because of the Liam Scales revival.
When he has played, how has Phillips performed?
He’s not done anything that made us think he’s not a good player, if anything we know he is a good player.
He’s been solid at the back, I just think the only issue from Celtic fans is maybe he doesn’t look as comfortable going forward.
And, in our game, our centre-backs do that. But obviously, when in the Champions League, he’s great.
He got brought on against Atletico Madrid. It was 2-2 so Brendan Rodgers went to five-at-the-back just to sure things up, and he brought him on and he did a job.
Would you like to see him stay longer than January?
I’d want to keep him because I’m an idiot when it comes to finances! If money wasn’t part of the equation, I would definitely keep Phillips at Celtic because I think he’s got a lot to offer defensively and his passion.
I would love to see him stay. I’m a fan, but I think the fans are obviously split because we’re paying a higher wage.
Do you think he will return to Liverpool in January?
Do we need him right now because we’ve got Lagerbielke and Nawrocki? They’re back from injury. For Celtic, we’ve paid a lot of money for them, so I can see Phillips going back.
But, on any other occasion, I reckon he would have been a mainstay in the Celtic team because he’s definitely a player, there’s no doubt about it.
It would be sad that it didn’t work out, but it would be nothing to do with his playing ability. He has not really had a fair crack at the whip.