Phillips sets sights on first game

SUNDERLAND striker Kevin Phillips has vowed to be fit for the start of the new Premiership season even if he has to kick his heels for a few more days.

The 28-year-old England international is back in training after undergoing surgery on a troublesome groin injury at the end of the last campaign.

He is unlikely to figure in his side’s opening friendly against Amiens at their Le Touquet training camp in France of Saturday, and it may be that he leaves it a little longer yet before he puts his body to the test once again.

However, Phillips is confident that he will be back in action long before the opening day trip to Blackburn on August 17 and is raring to go after playing through the pain barrier in a bid to help the Black Cats out of relegation trouble at the end of last season.

‘‘It feels good to be back in training and I feel fine,’’ he said. ‘‘I surprised myself on the first day because I did some running and felt a lot better than I thought I would.

‘‘It’s always nice to get back into it. I’ve had seven or eight weeks off and you’re soon itching to get back into playing games.

‘‘But it might take a little bit longer until I am ready to do that because I haven’t done any real twisting and turning yet. I have been okay doing straight-line running, but there is no point in pushing it too hard, too quickly.

‘‘I should think that I will leave the ball work for a week and concentrate on getting my fitness up.

‘‘There’s still five weeks until the start of the season and as long as I am playing in games in the weeks before the season starts, there shouldn’t be a problem.’’

Phillips battled through a series of niggling injuries as the last, difficult campaign drew to a close, and although he was at times hampered, he worked hard to prevent his side being sucked further into the mire.

However, now that his problems are behind him, he is determined to rediscover the form which brought him international recognition and established him as one of the most feared frontmen in the top flight.

‘‘It wasn’t a major problem, but it was a niggle and it was annoying me,’’ he told the club’s official website,

‘‘When I had the operation over the summer, it turned out to be nothing more serious than we had expected.

‘‘It’s sorted now and it is good to be able to come back to training and not have to worry about that.

‘‘I’ve had no problem with the groin since I’ve been back. About a week before we came back for pre-season, I had a slight problem and I had to have a jab in it just top settle it down, but since then it has been fine.

‘‘I’m pleased about that - it settles my mind and it means that I can concentrate on getting fit for the start of the season.’’

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