Will Nat Phillips’ Celtic stay be extended beyond January?

Nat Phillips made a rare start for Celtic against St Mirren on Wednesday evening, lining up in place of Cameron Carter-Vickers, who is being slowly nursed back into full flight by Brendan Rodgers.

It was a solid enough display from the Liverpool loanee, something we have come to expect from the Englishman in his brief time at Celtic, but, with the central-defensive injury crisis now firmly behind us, will Phillips be at the club beyond January?

If not, his stay in Glasgow will be even shorter than that of his father, Jimmy, who was signed from Bolton Wanderers during Graeme Souness’ time at Ibrox in 1987. Phillips senior managed three games (including one in the Glasgow Cup) against Celtic, with the most infamous being the 2-2 draw on 17th October 1987, which resulted in Frank McAvennie, Terry Butcher, Chris Woods and Graham Roberts appearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Breach of the Peace charges.



Jimmy Phillips’ stay in Glasgow was fleeting, and Nat was similarly brought up from the north of England to fill a short-term gap. Initially signed in an emergency loan deal, Nat Phillips arrived at Celtic at a point when Cameron Carter-Vickers, Maik Nawrocki, Yuki Kobayashi and Stephen Welsh were all injured. This left Brendan Rodgers with just new boy, Gustaf Lagerbielke, and the then virtual cast-off Liam Scales as the only two centre-back options, so it is perhaps surprising that Nat has managed just 270 minutes of football since he signed on 31st August 2023.

This lack of minutes is in keeping with the centre-back’s typical contribution, though, with just 5 appearances (232 minutes) for Liverpool last season, and 4 (226 minutes) the season before. Phillips did manage 18 full 90-minute appearances for Bournemouth whilst on loan at the then Championship club in 2021/22, but he generally does not play many games. In fact, at 26, he has managed just 76 games of competitive football, totalling 5,702 minutes. This equates to just over 63 full 90-minute games, or 133 minutes more than Callum McGregor played during season 2018/19 alone.


It doesn’t seem likely that Celtic will be renewing his deal beyond January, and here are a few reasons why:

Surprise resurgence of Liam Scales

One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the resurrection of Liam Scales. As previously outlined, Scales was written-off by almost the entire Celtic support, with his performances in his first season at the club, combined with an uninspiring loan spell at Aberdeen, failing to set the world alight.

He was called upon in the face of an injury crisis this season, however, and has stepped up to the plate spectacularly, even now displacing £5million centre-back signing Maik Nawrocki.

The Irishman has barely put a foot wrong this season and has swiftly shown himself to be a steady and dependable centre-back for the club, something that has limited the game time for Phillips.

Permanent centre-backs now readily available

Another reason why Celtic could opt not to extend Phillips’ contract is that there are plentiful options available at centre-back now, unlike when he signed in the summer when we were down to the barebones due to an unprecedented amount of injuries.

Celtic spent almost £8million on the combined fees for Maik Nawrocki and Gustaf Lagerbielke during the recent transfer window. These are two young players with promising futures who aren’t going to realise that potential sitting on the bench, which is something that won’t escape the watchful eye of Brendan Rodgers.

Phillips has provided a safe and steady option when called upon, with his experience proving vital in closing out some crucial games – Motherwell away in particular – but you could say his work at Celtic is done, with the job he was originally brought in to fulfil completed.


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