Super Kev's derby daze

by Kate Smith

Striker admits there’s no other game like a north-east derby.

During his time on Wearside Kevin Phillips amassed over 200 appearances for Sunderland, notching no less than 130 goals in a red and white shirt. 

Some of those strikes made history, broke club records, clinched promotion and ultimately wrote his name in Sunderland folklore.

Of those goals, one of the most memorable for the prolific marksman was his winner in his first-ever north-east derby.

Phillips reflects on that game in August 1999 with a wry smile as he still can’t believe it took place due to the apocalyptic weather conditions on that stormy Wednesday night.

“That first game with Newcastle is one of my most memorable as a Sunderland player. It was a bizarre evening, had kick-off been 10 minutes later I really think it would have been called off.

“We went to St James’ Park having not won there for quite some time and I managed to score the winner in the pouring rain, during midweek – it was very memorable.”

Niall Quinn had cancelled out Newcastle United’s early lead, gained courtesy of Kieron Dyer and with 15 minutes to go Phillips raced onto Nicky Summerbee’s cross-field pass to dazzle the Magpies’ keeper.  

“I chipped the ball over the top of the keeper – Tommy Wright, I think it was,” Phillips continued. “Some people said it was a cross, but believe me; I was going for goal and delighted to see it go in.”

Later that season Phillips added to his derby goals tally with a brace in Newcastle’s first-ever visit to the Stadium of Light, to earn Sunderland a point.

“That first game at the stadium is a favourite as well – I scored the equaliser in the last few minutes and the noise was unbelievable that day,” Phillips added.

“Thinking of it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; it’s a fantastic memory and one that sticks with me.”

The 40 year-old striker, now with Crystal Palace, is still plying his trade in the Barclays Premier League. He is one of a select few players who has played in a number of footballing derbies and admits no other rivalry compares to that of Sunderland and Newcastle.

Speaking on a recent visit to the Stadium of Light, he added: “I’ve played in many Midlands derbies, the south-coast derby and lots of other competitive clashes, but for me the north-east derby is the best – the noise and the atmosphere it generates is incredible, it’s electric.

“They’re great games and should Sunderland get a result, there’s no better game to give a boost to the team and go on and build a run from there.

“At the Stadium of Light when you hear the Sunderland fans get behind their team there’s nothing quite like it.”