Phillips rebuffs England after Pearce approach

Matt Phillips in new Scotland away kit. Courtesy of SFA
Matt Phillips in new Scotland away kit. Courtesy of SFA

MATT Phillips has revealed he rebuffed a last-ditch attempt by England caretaker manager Stuart Pearce to prevent him from committing his senior international career to Scotland.

Blackpool winger Phillips, who has represented England at under 19 and under 20 level, was named in the Scotland squad for the first time last week by Craig Levein.

The Aylesbury-born player is eligible to play for the Scots through his maternal grandparents, George and Mary Murdoch, who hail from Ayrshire.

A hamstring injury will prevent Phillips from making his Scotland debut in tonight’s (Wednesday) friendly in Slovenia but the 20-year-old still joined the squad on Sunday to become acquainted with his new compatriots.

Although FIFA rules permit Phillips to switch his allegiance back to England until he has played in a competitive match for Scotland, he insists his decision is irreversible as far as he is concerned.

The former Grange School pupil says he expressed that sentiment when he received a phone call from England caretaker boss Stuart Pearce asking him to reconsider and remains angry that the coach had previously overlooked him for England under 21 duty.

“I had a number of conversations with him but I haven’t just made this decision in the past month,” said Phillips.

“It’s been an ongoing thing and something that’s always been at the back of my mind that one day I’d play for Scotland. On a personal level, I was just fed up being overlooked by England and not getting the recognition I felt I deserved for my performances. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to make myself available for Scotland.

“I spoke to Stuart Pearce personally, because it had to come from me. A lot of people might have sat around and waited (for England). But I told him I wanted to come and play for Scotland.

“People might say I’m only choosing Scotland because I’ve not been picked by England or that I’m not good enough to play for England. But that’s not the case.

“I’ve been gifted to have two countries I could play for and

Scotland is the one I’ve chosen.

“I believe enough in my ability to think that one day I would have played for England. But I’m not looking at that now. Even if England asked me to play for their under 21s now, my mind is made up. I fully believe it’s the right decision.”

The SFA were alerted to Phillips’ eligibility by relatives. Since then, Levein has been persistent in a bid to get him on board.

“I still have family who live in Ayrshire. My grandparents live with my parents in Aylesbury now but they spoke to some of the family up here (Scotland) who passed it on to the SFA that I have Scottish blood in me.”

The winger was also hugely impressed with an added personal touch after receiving gifts including a Scotland shirt with ‘Phillips’ on the back for his grandfather.

“I don’t think he has taken it off since then.

“He’s absolutely over the moon I’m with Scotland now.”