BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Dillon Phillips has described this season as “massive” for him – and admits another nine months of bench-warming at Charlton Athletic is not an option.
The 23-year-old Addicks goalkeeper, who is out of contract next summer, is in the box seat to be number one in SE7 for the coming campaign.
Phillips has been the back-up in the past two years, first to Declan Rudd and then Ben Amos, but reckons Jordan Pickford’s heroics for England at the World Cup underline why he needs to get his career moving.
Charlton could still bring in another shotstopper and Phillips has made just eight league starts for the South Londoners.
“Ultimately I want to be number one here,” he said. “I had a conversation with the gaffer on our first day back and I told him: ‘I want to play – full stop’.
“I’m in the last year of my contract and I need to play. I was understudy to two goalkeepers who had to play in the last two seasons but it is not an option for me to be number two anywhere.
“I’ve stressed that to Lee [Bowyer] and Andy [Marshall], the new goalkeeper coach. They both understand what my position is and hopefully respect that.
“People used to say that 23 is no age for a goalkeeper. But that’s not the case – Pickford is 24 and is England’s number one. He has got a lot of games behind him.
“There are a lot of young goalies in bigger clubs playing in League One and League Two and I feel I could be doing exactly the same thing, given the opportunity, to do a good job if not better than other players out there.
“I was really frustrated last season. I didn’t feel like anyone was feeling what I was feeling. At times I was very frustrated and I let people know quite often. It’s massively important for any young player to play games. You train all week and want the reward at the end of it. It was hard mentally.”
Phillips, who played 39 games on loan for Cheltenham in the National League in 2015-16, will be a free transfer next summer if he does not renew terms.
He came through the academy at Charlton and only Chris Solly is longer serving.
“I’m quite relaxed about my contract situation,” he said. “I’m not stressed, I’m not thinking I need people to hurry up and offer me one. I back myself. Hopefully there will be a new contract at this club. If not then you hope there is interest elsewhere and I can establish myself as a first-team goalkeeper.
“My agents know the situation and they’ll be doing their work away from it. But my full focus is on Charlton and playing here. I’m not asking who is interested, who will take me. It is difficult to speak to other clubs if you don’t know what is around the corner.
“At the moment I’m the senior goalie at the club. So it’s hard to put me on the market if they are not sure what is happening.”
Phillips had a run of 13 games for Charlton in the 2016-17 campaign but then boss Karl Robinson brought Norwich loanee Rudd straight back into the side when he had recovered from injury, even though the former had done nothing wrong.
Asked if he has had a sustained shot at proving he can be the goalkeeper answer – Phillips said: “Definitely not.
“I haven’t had that chance. The difficult thing when you come through at a club – I’ve been here since seven or eight years old – means everyone in the building sees you as the kid who came through the academy.
“As a goalkeeper you can’t be filtered in. It can’t be a half-hour here or 20 minutes there – it doesn’t work that way. You’re either number one or you’re not.
“Charlton is a massive club and attracts good goalkeepers. The calibre we had for the last two years, for League One football, is out of this world.
“They had both played Premier League football. When you attract these type it is hard to fight your way in.
“I had a chance when Dec had his injury. I really enjoyed it. After five, six or seven matches then you start to feel comfortable and in the swing of things but I was back out.
“When you have a goalkeeper on loan from another club, you know they are going to play. Hopefully I get my opportunity to prove people wrong.”