Nat Phillips vows to give FA Cup minnows the same respect he showed Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The Liverpool defender from Bournemouth is used to training against Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, and alongside Virgil van Dijk, but he will always hold the National League side in high regard.

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Nat Phillips has spent the last three and a half years training alongside Virgil van Dijk, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.

And his last competitive outing for Liverpool before joining Bournemouth on a deadline day loan saw him go up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his AC Milan pals in the Champions League.

But the 24-year-old will show the National League’s Boreham Wood players as much respect as he showed those bigger names as he tries to help his new team into the fifth round draw of the FA Cup.

Phillips said: “No matter who you’re playing against, you have to be ready to put in the best performance possible and always treat the opponent with respect.






Phillips and Ibrahimovic clash

“Boreham Wood have been brilliantly successful in getting this far in the competition and that’s because they put in the performances and played to the level required.

“So it’s up to us to stay professional and do what we can to win the game.”

Phillips’ words will be welcomed, but Boreham Wood’s forward line is unlikely to have yielded too many sleepless nights given who he’s used to coming up against in training.

He added: “When you meet these boys every day of your life, there aren’t many who offer you more than they do.

“Obviously there are different challenges, but these are the No. 1 players to test you with.

“The biggest challenge when I started training with the first team was how mentally alert you need to be, how mentally alert these players are.

“Technically and physically they are elite, but mentally you have to be so sharp and aware, and you can never sail or drift in training.

“Once you come out of a game or an intense session, it feels like you’re taking an exam in school, it’s that kind of weight on your thinking ability.”







Phillips with his Liverpool teammates Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah
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Picture:

Gareth Copley/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)


Training alongside Virgil van Dijk has also been a massive learning curve for Phillips and he hopes to bring some of the Dutch with him to the south coast.

He added: “Virgil was happy for me, he felt it was a good decision. He understands the situation I’m in where I have to play games.

“Virgil is physically exceptional and there are only a few things you can replicate because realistically I will never be as fast as him.

“I better be as strong as him.

“But the way he reads the game, the way he gets into duels, the way he dominates and is so vocal on the pitch, those are all things that I can try to replicate and seek to implement. in my game.”

His new teammate Gary Cahill is another player Phillips knows he can learn from.

He said: “I want to learn as much as I can from him.







Virgil van Dijk is a player Phillips drew on during their time together at Anfield
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Picture:

Getty Images)


“He’s someone who made it to the top and you can only learn and benefit from watching these guys and seeing how they take care of his business.

“I have seen so far that he is a top pro in the way he behaves and approaches training, as well as in his lifestyle.

“And, growing up as a Bolton fan, I saw him play a lot at the Reebok Stadium, as he did back then, so he was someone I looked up to and idolized when I played. was younger and it’s a great opportunity to be able to watch it day after day.

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