“Celtic has given me a great opportunity,” Nat Phillips

Nat Phillips spoke to the media at Celtic Park yesterday, signalling the end of the international break and the return to club football with Celtic in action over the week in the Scottish Premiership match against Dundee at Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon before the eagerly awaited trip to Rotterdam on Tuesday to take ion Dutch Champions Feyenoord in our opening match of the Champions League group stages.

Phillips joined Celtic on loan from Liverpool so while his teammates down the road are playing Europa League football, the English defender will have the opportunity to sample Champions League football once again.  Phillips is a squad player at Liverpool and was clearly in need of first team football, thus the need for a loan from his perspective.

And with various options open to him it was the late intervention from Celtic – due to the injury crisis we’ve had to endure with three central defenders all currently sidelined – that appealed to Phillips and the deal was sealed allowing him to be just about the only Celtic supporter at Ibrox in our last game before the break.

Nathaniel Phillips of Liverpool FC reacts during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Real Madrid and Liverpool FC at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on April 06, 2021 in Madrid, (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)


Nat reveals that he watched that match through the glass in the media room at Ibrox and he certainly got a feel for what it’s like playing in a Glasgow Derby in such a hostile environment.  It would make sense for Brendan Rodgers to give Phillips some game-time on Saturday against Dundee.

The new Celtic signing wasn’t available for the game at Ibrox and that was made clear by Liverpool’s medical team ahead of the deal going through. However as expected he is fit and ready to go at the other side of the international break.  His experience could prove to be essential in Rotterdam on Tuesday night but first he needs to get an opportunity against Dundee.

Here’s how his question and answer session went yesterday afternoon…

Q: Nat, good to finally talk to you. How has your first couple of weeks as a Celtic player been?

Nat Phillips: “Enjoyable, yeah. I feel like it didn’t take me long to settle in. The lads and staff have been great with me. I’ve moved into a flat now, so it’s all been very smooth. I’m enjoying it.”

Q: The first game you watched on as a Celtic player was a pretty big victory (theRangers 0-1 Celtic). What did you take away from that?

Nat Phillips: “The lads dug in well. Obviously, it was tough at the end, but the lads showed that with their backs against the wall a bit, that they can dig in at the same time. It’s a huge result and a huge win. They performed well.”

Q: Does the reaction to that and everything around that game really whet your appetite for what’s to come in your Celtic career?

Nat Phillips: “I think so, yeah. I don’t think it needed wetting anymore, to be honest. I was already really excited about it before that game, but it gave me a taste and idea as to what it’s all about.”

Q: How much are you raring to go and get out on that pitch?

Nat Phillips: “Very much so. I can’t really overstate that. I want to get playing games for the club and get contributing.”

Q: Did the game against (the)Rangers surprise you in any way?

Nat Phillips: “No, I wouldn’t say so. I had to watch it from inside, so you could obviously hear the atmosphere, but I didn’t get to see it for myself. It’s obviously got a huge reputation that game. Like I said earlier, the lads did well to get the result.”

Q: What’s the reaction been like from the squad in these two weeks when you had an international break after such a big win? What’s it been like in and around the club?

Nat Phillips: “We didn’t dwell on it for too long but the lads were happy. It was an international break so there’s a few days off, and then once the lads were back in it was back to training and back to working hard and working towards the next games coming up.”

Q: You said you were watching the game from inside. Were you inside the media room? How was that experience?

Nat Phillips: “Yeah, I was. Obviously, I wanted to be in and around the dressing room and in amongst the boys taking it all in. Being inside the media room wasn’t as fun as it might have been in the stands, but it might not have been that fun in the stands as probably the only Celtic person in a stand! I enjoyed it, yeah, it was good to be there and support the lads. It was a tense game to watch as well, but an enjoyable one.”

Q: Did you get any advice from your dad about your move up here?

Nat Phillips: “No. My dad’s been someone who has given me a lot of advice throughout my career, but as I’ve got older he’s happy to sort of leave me to it and come to him when I feel like I need the advice. I’d say that comes on a game-to-game basis. He was excited for me about the move and excited for me to get playing games.”

Q: What exactly is it you’re looking for from your loan spell itself?

Nat Phillips: “I’ve gone through a period at Liverpool where I’ve not been playing a great deal and ultimately in the transfer window I knew that I needed to get playing games regularly somewhere. Celtic has given me a great opportunity to do that at a good level and at a huge club – one with a stadium that’s always packed full of passionate fans. As a player, that’s what you want to be playing in front of those atmospheres and at a club who have aspirations and high expectations, which as a player you want to be pushing towards big end goals. That’s something that Celtic gives me.”

Q: You’ve got the chance of Champions League football at Celtic Park, how exciting is that prospect?

Nat Phillips: “It is really exciting. I think the Champions League is probably the pinnacle of football for a lot of players. It is a great opportunity to be involved in that as well.”

Q: You have experience of playing in the Champions League before can you tell us a little bit about that?

Nat Phillips: “I have loved every time I have been out on the pitch in the Champions League. It is that next level competing against the biggest and best in Europe. It is highly competitive but at the same time, I know that at Liverpool the Champions League nights had a reputation for being special. I have heard it is the same at Celtic and I am looking forward to that.”

Q: What has the manager spoken to you about in terms of your role at Celtic? When everyone is fit he is no short of options in terms of central defenders. What has he said about you fitting into this squad at the moment?

Nat Phillips: “We’ve not gone into that in too much detail at the moment. There is a situation at Celtic where there is a lot of injuries and there is a hole there that hopefully I can fill. We have not gone beyond that and it is just a matter of taking it step by step and getting in and playing games and getting into the rhythm of things and then we will have a discussion about that in the future.”

Q: Is that going to be January time then where you would look to see if you could stay here or go back to Liverpool?

Nat Phillips: “I think ultimately there will be a review in January and a conversation will be had. I don’t know when the other boys are due to be back in and fit and training. I have not had a conversation about that.”

 Brendan Rodgers gives his team instructions during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between theRangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium on September 03, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: When did Brendan Rodgers get in touch and when did the interest from Celtic first arise in terms of that?

Nat Phillips: “Two or three days before I signed.”

Q: It was a short turnaround but is that something you are looking forward to?

Nat Phillips: “Exactly. Throughout the window, there had been different clubs thrown around and conversations regarding my situation. Celtic immediately jumped out at me and that was the one that I was really excited to try and progress.”

Ben Doak controls the ball during the pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at BBBank Wildparkstadion on July 19, 2023 in Karlsruhe, Germany. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Q: Can I ask you about a teammate of yours at Liverpool, a player that people in Scotland are very excited about – Ben Doak – I’m sure you will have played with him and trained with him. How excited should people be about him as a prospect?

Nat Phillips: “From what I’ve seen from Doaky so far, I think plenty of people have every reason to be excited about him. He’s very confident and he doesn’t shirk responsibility. Sometimes young boys come up to the first team and they might play within themselves a bit and that’s not been the case with him. He’s electric when he is running at players. He’s happy to run at anyone. I think if he continues to progress the way he is doing he’ll do well.”

Q: He is just 17 years old and he has been included in Liverpool’s Europa League squad. Has he just got that fearlessness about him that a young player needs to succeed?

Nat Phillips: Yes. I think that’s it. Fearless is the way I would describe him. He’s got bags of ability as well certainly in one-on-one scenarios. I think the rest of it is up to Ben and how he applies himself in training and how he works on his game. The basic tools and foundations are there for him to go and be a great player.”

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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