The Yorkshire-born striker joined Everton at Under-13 level having
previously been at the academy at Huddersfield Town. He progressed through the
Everton ranks. Yet in 2016, Phillips suffered a double knee fracture that some
feared might end his career before it had even gotten started.
Due to the severity of the injury – with surgeons having concerns his
knee would collapse – the 19-year-old spent an incredible 2½ years in
recovery, with his ultimate return to the game he loved credited to the
Everton physios at Finch Farm who had worked so diligently through such
a long and psychologically demanding rehabilitation program to get him
fit enough to play the game again.
But, when Phillips returned, he hit the ground running with two
goals in his first game for the Under-18s. A hat-trick against
Manchester City followed and the teenager ended 2018-19 with 13 strikes
in 12 matches. He was less successful at Under-23 level, not getting off
the bench in a handful of games, but it was enough to earn Phillips his first professional contract,
putting pen to paper on a 1-year deal running through June 2020.
The 19-year-old set his sights on breaking into David Unsworth's
double-winning Under-23s side in the upcoming 2019-20 campaign:
“I'm so happy to sign a first pro contract for a big club with such a great history,” Phillips told evertonfc.com.
“It's a great place to be as a young player. We've got a very good bunch of lads. Training is intense and we are all striving to make each other better. The coaches are brilliant, too. They push you to be your best.
“This season, I want to keep developing and try to play as many games as I can for the Under-23s.”
Phillips played in surprisingly few Under-23 games in 2019-20,
continuing his development at Under-18 level, due to having lost so
much playing time as a teenager. Then, at the end of the transfer window
in January 2020, Phillips went back to Huddersfield Town on loan for the rest of the
season. He had scored against Celtic as a trialist for the Elite
Development Team (EDT) before he signed; the second of two games he played
under Academy Manager Leigh Bromby, who commented:
“Kieran was identified through the Club’s recruitment process as a
player who we could really develop as part of our Elite Development
group. We couldn’t agree a deal with Everton at that point, but we’ve
kept a close eye on him ever since and moved quickly to take this
opportunity once it arose.
“We see loads of potential in him. He’ll get a lot of minutes on the
pitch within our games programme and we’ll work hard to improve all
areas of his game.”
But if he played any more games, it would have only been for
Huddersfield Town's development side. He did not get to play for
the senior side before Everton released him at the end of the season,
when his contract expired. His old club would not disappoint, however,
giving him a 1-year professional contract, after he scord 6 goals in 7
appearances for the Terriers' EDT and Under-19 squads, impressing
coaches with his levels of application.
Huddersfield Town academy manager Emyr Humphreys said: “Kieran has
really impressed us throughout his loan and we’re delighted to complete
this permanent transfer. He’s a player with a lot of potential. He’s a
very intelligent, articulate young man who is a natural goal scorer; you
can never have enough of those.
“We’ve already seen the improvement in him through our training and
games programme and it’s been fantastic to see him in and around first
team training during this period. I’m looking forward to seeing him
continue to improve over the coming weeks and months.”