The 21-year-old stood apart from his teammates during a moment of silence.
Ireland U21 star Killian Phillips is the latest footballer to experience what James McClean and Nemanja Matic, and others, are sadly well used to.
Phillips took the personal decision, on Saturday, to stand aside as his teammates linked arms for a Remembrance Day moment of tribute. The day – held to honour armed forces members, of the Commonwealth, who have died in the line of duty – is not until November 11, but Oxford United were marking what has now become a month-long period of reflection and tribute. This is also the time of year that many teams, and those across sport, don a poppy.
As 10 of his Wycombe teammates linked arms, around the centre circle, Phillips respectfully stepped to one side as ‘The Last Post’ was played. He observed the silence then played his part in a 2-2 draw. There were some barbed comments from members of the home support, directed at Phillips, but the game passed off without any major flashpoints.
In the preceding days, however, Phillips has found himself at the centre of a growing storm, as many irate football fans took to social media to condemn the 21-year-old. Several UK media outlets have ran stories on the incident, with The Daily Mail going so far as to all cap ‘REFUSES’ in the headline and run a comment accusing him of ‘lacking basic decency’.
Killian Phillips criticised for Remembrance stance
Across social media, predominantly on Twitter, Killian Phillips has been accused of being ‘insolent’ and a ‘disgrace’, with some insults getting far too personal. Some fans from Crystal Palace, his parent club, have said they do not want him back at the club when his loan spell is over.
The Mail is also speculating on whether the Ireland U21 will wear a poppy on his kit when Wycombe Wanderers play their November fixtures. Killian Phillips and Wycombe are in action against Cambridge United, in League One, this evening.
This is something that Wrexham and Ireland midfielder James McClean experienced throughout his club career in England, as he deigned not to wear the poppy and stand linked with teammates for Remembrance tributes.
McClean wrote an open letter, explaining his stance, several years ago and laid out his position well. Still, it did not prevent the worst of the vitriol he received, in grounds across England, for his personal stance. In 2018, former Chelsea and Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic released a similar statement when his not wearing of a poppy was highlighted.
Phillips was born in San Diego but his family moved to Ireland when he was a young child. He grew up on Dublin’s northside and played for Kilbarrack United before getting picked up by Drogheda United. He played 31 times for the League of Ireland club, in 2021, before he was signed by Crystal Palace.
At the end of last season, Phillips spoke to The Irish Independent about his rapid rise from playing with Drogheda to being in Premier League match-day squads ad making his Ireland U21 debut. He said:
“I was in the squad for the League Cup game against Oxford United. Patrick [Vieira, former Crystal Palace manager] named the team and I was starting. I remember seeing that I started against Sligo Rovers around 12 months before that. To make my debut under Patrick, one of the best central midfielders in Premier League history, it was mental.
“After that, I was on the bench twice in the Premier League. That’s every kid’s dream. I tried to play it cool, but the little kid in your head is screaming. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”
Phillips was eventually loaned out to Shrewsbury Town, to gain some first team appearance, and picked up two Player of the Month and Young Player of the Year while with the club. He scored three goals in 20 games during his loan spell.
In August, Crystal Palace announced Phillips had signed a new contract with the club and was being loaned out to Wycombe Wanderers for the 2023/24 season.
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