by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – KEENAN Phillips’ decision to swap the blue strip of the now-defunct Bidvest Wits for the blue outfit of SuperSport United has proven to be a master stroke .
The defender’s purple patch has culminated in him setting up one of the most iconic moments in his new team’s history.
The 20-year-old’s future hung in the balance following the sale of Bivest Wits franchise to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) in the pre-season.
However, his fortunes have changed considerably as he emerges as one of the finds of the current season, playing a pivotal role in coach Kaitano Tembo building a formidable team around younger players.
While the hype has been around Bradley Grobler scoring his record-equaling goal against TS Galaxy, Phillips has gone about his business quietly but effectively at rightback.
He capped his strong performances with the assist that enabled Grobler carve some history at the Mbombela Stadium last Saturday.
A low cross from Phillips after a brilliant overlap split the Galaxy defence and ensured the forward scored his 57th goal for SuperSport, thereby drawing him level with the late Abraham Raselemane.
“It has been a great season so far,” the Mahikeng-born defender said in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
He said of the historic assist to Grobler, “I am a very selfless player.”
“I believe it is not always important to be the one to score a goal but rather to be the one to help my teammates score.”
While game-time at Wits was limited, Phillips is synonymous with momentous assists, including one in the Clever Boys’ last game in the Premiership. An assist to Eva Nga opened the scoring for Wits in the 3-1 win over Polokwane City.
“The Wits game was very emotional as it was our last game together. Therefore, I felt I needed to go on and play my heart out as it was our ‘last dance’ as everyone knows,” he said.
That was Phillips’ fourth appearance for Wits overall, a feat he has already exceeded at SuperSport with less than a third of the current campaign gone.
He has featured in eight matches, including five in SuperSport’s nine DStv Premiership outings. The three-time league winners are third on 19 points and a game in hand over leaders, Mamelodi Sundowns (24 points), and Swallows FC (22).
“I aim to maintain my position in the team and to maintain a good reputation among my teammates and the youth around me. I believe we have the ability to attain a title. However, we just take it one game at a time,” Phillips said.
The fullback described himself as hard working and very disciplined, which had allowed him to grow with every game.
Hence he has never been booked in SuperSport colours.
“I try to keep the team motivated and positive even on the bad days,” Phillips disclosed.
He has heeded the call by Tembo for the younger players to fill the void left by senior players SuperSport has released in recent months to make way for new blood.
Among these departures are defender Clayton Daniels.
“To be fair, filling shoes like Daniels’ is very tough,” the rightback conceded.
“However, Daniels started off as a junior player too. Only through experience will we be able to fill those shoes, which is an ongoing processes for us.”
Phillips has retained memories of his time at Wits, where he made his senior debut in the one-all draw against Kazier Chiefs at right midfield in August last year.
“I started at Wits (juniors) when I was 16 years old,” he said.
“It took me a long time to get to where I am now. So I suppose patience is a virtue and I have a lot of people to thank for helping me to get where I am today,” Phillips added.
– CAJ News