Crewe Alexandra: Steve Phillips closes in on training return
KEEPER Steve Phillips is edging nearer a return to full training – but has been warned he will have to battle for his Crewe first-team place.
The 34-year-old, an ever-present as the Alex won promotion last season, has not featured yet this term after his summer preparations were hit by a cancer scare.
Treatment for suspected tendonitis showed up a tumorous lump on the player-coach's left knee, and he had to wait an anxious two months to be given the all-clear.
He has since been working hard to build up strength in the joint, as well as continuing his new role putting the club's other keepers through their paces.
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Alan Martin, aged 23, has taken his place between the sticks and impressed as he has recorded four clean sheets in his first nine games.
Crewe assistant boss Neil Baker said: "Steve has been working with the fitness coaches and physios and he's making good progress. It won't be long before he's back out on the training ground.
"Alan has been fine after being given an opportunity, stepping up to the plate very well.
"When Steve does get back it will provide good competition, which is exactly what we want. It will be a good battle between those two for the gloves."
Baker praised Phillips's attitude working with Martin and youth keeper Ben Garratt and his presence around the squad in the two-and-a-half months he has spent on the sidelines.
He said: "Steve has been doing a good job, working hard with Alan and the younger goalkeepers.
"He hasn't been redundant in the time he hasn't been able to play.
"It has been a frustrating time for him on the playing side, but he has carried on being a good character around the changing room."