QPR’s Phillips aims to put frustrating start behind him

Matt Phillips

Matt Phillips - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

For a player whose size, strength and pace is enough to strike fear into the hearts of the very best defences, Matt Phillips’ QPR career has been something of a slow-burner.

The 22-year-old winger arrived at Loftus Road in August with a reputation as one of the country’s most promising young talents, with 17 goals in 67 matches for Blackpool.

The first three months of his Rangers career, however, have proved frustrating. After recovering from a broken arm suffered in pre-season prior to his move to west London, he then suffered a flare-up of the same injury in the win over Yeovil in September.

Phillips made just his third QPR start against Derby on Saturday, and for the first time offered a glimpse of the talent that led Blackpool boss Paul Ince to call his departure ‘a big blow’.

Phillips produced a vibrant display on the right of QPR’s attack, setting up Jermaine Jenas for Rangers’ opener and, after a darting run infield from the by-line into the Derby penalty area, thundered a shot off the underside of the crossbar.

It was a performance of power and poise, particularly in the second half – a relief as much for the player as for his manager and the fans after a frustrating period on the sidelines.

“It was my best game for QPR, without a doubt,” said Phillips. “It’s been a tough start for me, coming in injured. But against Derby I think I showed what I am about. I’ve come here as a young lad and I’m still learning about the game.

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“To miss pre-season, you’re always playing catch-up, and then I missed the first seven or eight games. Then when I did get fit enough to play I broke down again – it’s just been stop-start. I’m pleased that I’m back and I’m getting stronger with each game that goes by.”

Standing at a surprisingly tall 6ft, and having had the option of being a sprinter rather than a footballer at school, Phillips possesses a unique mix of attributes which could make him one of the best players in the Championship.

Rs manager Harry Redknapp sees him as a key player this season, and Phillips is now keen to make his mark.

“I had time out to let the bone heal. The bone healed fine but the muscles around the area weren’t strong enough to take any impact. It swelled up and I was back to square one,” he added.

“I’ve been working hard with the fitness teams and the physios to get myself stronger. Up until Yeovil I wasn’t wearing too much protection on it because no-one was to know that that was going to happen.

“I’ve had two or three different pads to wear in training and in games. Hopefully now I’m repaying the faith the manager has showed in me.”

Phillips’ display against Derby should be enough to earn him a starting place against Reading this weekend, as QPR seek to keep the pressure on Leicester City and leaders Burnley.

With three of the club’s creative players – Niko Kranjcar, Tom Carroll and Alejandro Faurlin – all likely to miss the game through injury, the emphasis in attack will again fall on the likes of Phillips and Junior Hoilett, who has also enjoyed an impressive start to the campaign on the opposite flank.

“I need to try to get through the games without another setback. It’s going to get stronger if I keep working hard,” added Phillips.

“It’s confidence as well. I’ve come here and I wanted to impress straight away. It didn’t really happen for me straightaway, it was always going to take a couple of games as I get fitter and sharper. I learn how the boys play and they learn how I play. Against Derby it clicked.”