Nostalgia can put a misty-eyed perspective on the real truth but if Rotherham United have had a centre forward with a more devastating turn of speed than Trevor Phillips, then he doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
Jet-heeled, electric-heeled, lightning quick... label him any which way you like but his speed off the mark, be it on the turn or from a standing start, was the key weapon in his armoury. Big centre halves usually prefer something other than mobile, brave, speedy, gutsy, little strikers and Trev was all of those.
His death after illness will be particularly sad news for those Millers fans who watched him over a 10 year, first team career in which he made a total of 364 appearances with 91 goals in the Millers colours.
He was a starlet from an early age and it was down to the wiles of Millers manager Tommy Docherty that he was ‘pinched’ from right under the nose of his home town club, Barnsley. In fact, Trev lived very close to the ground and went to Grove Street School which is the street Oakwell is on!
A star with Barnsley Boys, he seemed destined to join them but Docherty persuaded him to come to Rotherham and it proved a fruitful alliance.
His speed was soon causing huge problems in Youth team football and he was one of the stars in the Millers teams that got to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup in both 1970 and 1971. His form caught the eye of the England selectors and won three Youth international caps, a considerable achievement for a youngster with a Third Division (Lge One) club.
He made his Millers debut at just 17 in January 1970 and became one of the club’s youngest ever scorers when scoring in his third game. His goal ratio averaged one in four and rather than being a goalscorer mould of a Richard Finney, a Rod Fern, a Mark Robins, he tended to score the spectacular with a ferocious shot. It was often said that he ran at 100 miles an hour and if he’d not approached his finishing at the same speed, he would have got more goals from those scoreable positions his pace got him into. His sharpness was also to win quite a few penalties.
He was part of the 1974/75 Division Four promotion side. His best season came in 1976/77 when he played in all the 54 games that season as the ‘second striker’ playing alongside big Dave Gwyther.
His early career was as a No 9 but he also played wide, even had a spell in a midfield role before playing ‘off’ a bigger fellow striker.
He left Rotherham for Hull City for £55,000 in the close season of 1979 but inside a year joined Chester where he made his debut alongside Ian Rush. He had two spells with them either side of a year at Stockport County. He finished in non-league with Oswestry and lived near Chester where he had a painting and decorating business.
The thoughts of everyone at Rotherham United are with Trevor's family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.
Rest in Peace, Trevor.
Once a Miller, Always a Miller.