Phillips targets Midlands derby for return from thigh injury

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The Independent Football

The Birmingham striker Kevin Phillips has targeted the local derby at West Bromwich Albion in just under two weeks' time for his return to action.

The 37-year-old suffered a torn thigh muscle injury in the pre-season friendly with Real Mallorca in early August. But he is now stepping up his fitness programme and hopes to be in contention for the game at The Hawthorns on 18 September. Phillips signed a new one-year deal in the summer after impressing primarily as a substitute last season.

"The injury is fine," he said yesterday. "I'm not getting any more pain or symptoms. It's just now a case of trying to catch up on fitness, trying to tick all the boxes with the medical staff. We're not far away. I'd say if you're going to ask me when I will be ready, Liverpool on Sunday is probably a bit too soon. I will need at least a week's training with the lads, so I'm hoping to be involved in some capacity in the West Brom game."

Phillips admitted he was left frustrated by the timing of the injury a week before the start of the new campaign.

He said: "For the first two weeks after getting the injury against Mallorca, I was a nightmare. I hate being injured, especially when you've just completed pre-season. I believe I reported back as fit as anyone, as fit as I could have been.

"Then to get injured a week before the season started is not what you want. I'm 37 now, I've already done one pre-season and I'm just in the middle of another one. I don't need two pre-seasons at my age."

West Bromwich's technical director, Dan Ashworth, believes his club have now assembled a squad capable of being "competitive" in the Premier League, having been relegated from the top flight on three occasions since 2002.

Ashworth has had a chance to take stock of Albion's current strength in depth after the closure of the transfer window and the two-week international break. He has worked with head coach, Roberto Di Matteo, in bringing in 10 summer signings plus persuading seven others to sign new contracts.

Ashworth said: "The problem with being a newly promoted team is we have had to bring in 10 new players so virtually half of our squad is new. Some of them have only just walked through the door, some have had to settle in a new country, some in a new area.

"It is a transitional time for the squad and the players. But, if all goes well, I feel we have made ourselves competitive. Everyone else has strengthened since we were up in this division last two years ago. It is an incredibly difficult league. If we get a bit of luck with injuries, and in the games themselves, we have got a competitive squad in an extremely competitive league."