Memory of his dad means Watford will always be extra special to Phillips (From This Is Local London)
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The memory of his dad means Watford will always be extra special to Kevin Phillips
7:00am Thursday 6th February 2014 in Latest Sport
The club which hands a player their first professional contract will always be special to that individual. But Watford hold an extra special place in Kevin Phillips' heart because it was the only place where his dad saw him play professional football and score before he died.
The Hornets plucked Phillips from non-league obscurity at Baldock Town in 1994, after he had been discarded by Southampton after being used as a full back. It was for Watford that he made his league debut and scored his first goal in professional football.
That his father, Ray, passed away suddenly at the end of Phillips’ first season at Vicarage Road makes it all the more poignant for the now Leicester City striker, who scored the deciding Crystal Palace goal last year which denied the Golden Boys promotion to the Premier League.
Speaking in an exclusive and revealing interview in the book Tales from the Vicarage Volume Two, Phillips said: "Whether the Watford fans hate me for it [the penalty at Wembley] or not, they will always have a place in my heart.
"If it wasn’t for Watford, I wouldn’t have had a career. But most of all, Watford will always be the place where my dad saw me play professional football and score a goal, and that means more to me than anything."
There was a sense of inevitability when Phillips came on as a substitute for Leicester at Bournemouth on Saturday and scored the only goal of the game in the 81st minute.
The 40-year-old striker has scored for all nine of his professional clubs since starting his career at Watford in 1994.
Hornets fans would be forgiven for travelling to Leicester’s King Power Stadium for Saturday's match against the Championship leaders already resigned to the idea of Phillips scoring the winner.
After all, not only did Phillips break Watford’s hearts in extra-time at Wembley, he netted in all three games he played against Gianfranco Zola's men last season, for Palace and Blackpool.
So many Watford fans could be forgiven for holding a grudge, particularly as it was Phillips who barred their team’s path to the top flight. But the feeling is definitely not mutual.
Phillips asks the rhetorical question: "Do I apologise? I don’t know. It’s football. I was on the pitch to do a job for Crystal Palace and, at my age, to achieve that was a great feeling.
"I was elated but at the final whistle I felt for the Watford players and fans because I knew how they felt. I’ve lost three play-off finals and it’s awful. I’d been asked before the game if I’d celebrate and I said I didn’t want to rub it in," he adds, explaining why he turned on his heels and ran towards the end of the ground where the Palace fans were massed, before being mobbed by his team-mates.
Tales from the Vicarage Volume Two (£10.99) is available online from www.watfordfcbook.com and at Amazon. It is on sale at Watford Museum and Londis at 91-93 Vicarage Road, near to the stadium.
The book's creators are also hosting the event Tales from the Vicarage Live at Watford Palace Theatre on March 22, which will see ex-Hornets Malky Mackay, Sean Dyche, Aidy Boothroyd and Luther Blissett discuss Watford matters. Find out more about the event here.
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