Former Premier League striker Kevin Phillips has opened up about the tragic start to his managerial career with South Shields. Phillips, who spent 20 years playing at the top level of English football, joined the seventh-tier club in January 2022 for his first management role. However, just 33 days into the job, he found his close friend Keith Havelock dead. Havelock, a staunch Sunderland supporter who volunteered at the club’s fans’ museum during Phillips’ time playing for the Black Cats, had helped persuade Phillips to join South Shields and even put him up while he looked for somewhere to live in Durham. After failing to get hold of Havelock all day, Phillips went to his house and found him dead. Havelock had cardiomyopathy and his heart had failed. Phillips said that it left a massive hole in his heart and that it took until the summer for him to let it sink in. He added that football was therapeutic and that Keith’s daughter Kelly now attends every South Shields home match to support him in his quest to guide the club to the National League North. South Shields are currently 12 points clear at the top of the Northern Premier League with just five games remaining.