Liverpool defender Nat Phillips has spoken of some of the confidence-building words of encouragement he has heard from experienced teammates.
Phillips played a pivotal role in Liverpool’s strong run of form to the end of the season, normally alongside either Ozan Kabak or young Rhys Williams at the heart of The Reds’ defence.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Phillips revealed how some of the more senior players in the squad would take every opportunity to pass on advice or messages of support to him, during a game or in the dressing room:
“Milly said to me when there was a headed goal (against Leeds), “You’d have headed that away.” For him to say that to me, that was a moment when I thought, “Wow” and felt so proud.
“For someone like James Milner to say that, that they missed having me in the team, was a huge moment for me. You look at what he has done in the game, the levels he’s reached, the trophies he’s won and just how respected it is.
“For him to say something like that was a huge compliment for me.
“Thiago would, on a few occasions, make a point of offering me praise in certain moments. Going out of his way after a goal to come over to me and say that that was from my header or my tackle. Gini did it as well.
“The manager, after games, would say how happy he was with me. He placed his trust in me and played me. Those moments where people who have achieved so much in the game and are so respected in the game, are offering that praise and advice, it’s really nice to hear and it’s quite a big moment.
“Especially when you’re playing in the team and part of the team, it means something then.
“If you were performing poorly or letting the side down, the things these guys are trying to achieve, they’d have let you know about. To know they weren’t just saying it and they actually meant it was nice to hear.”
Phillips made 20 appearances for Liverpool during the season, helping them a third-place finish with nine clean sheets along the way.
“Maybe after the Sheffield United game, I felt I had earned people’s trust and it felt they were comfortable with me in the side.
“In prior games, all the lads were great with me when I was getting those first few appearances, talking me through games, helping me out where they could and maybe offering a bit more defensive support.
“But as time went on, you could see they weren’t thinking as much about me being in the side and how that might affect the game. They were comfortable with me being in the team and that trust in me was a nice feeling and I felt that most after the Sheffield United game.
“My best game was Real Madrid at home or West Ham away though. I know a lot of people said Burnley away but I wasn’t really happy with my performance, certainly not at the start.
“I was still trying to figure out how best to play against Chris Wood. I got better as the game went on and got the goal and the goal-line clearance.
“They were big moments but it’s a good job I had those big moments otherwise the reviews of my performance would have been a bit different!”
Whatever the future holds for Phillips, be it at Liverpool or away from the club, he certainly did his reputation no harm with some rock-solid performances for Jürgen Klopp’s side this year.
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