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First team

Feature: Phil's out to top the Bill

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Philip Billing has had more ups and downs than a lift engineer in the past couple of years.

The tall midfielder joined the Cherries last month after ending his long and eventful association with Huddersfield Town.

Having impressed on debut during the 3-0 win against Lyon, Billing will be hoping to feature when Eddie Howe’s team host Sheffield United in their Premier League curtain-raiser.

The Dane’s previous experiences of opening-day encounters in the top flight could not be further apart, highlighting the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of his final two seasons in West Yorkshire.

Billing started as Huddersfield marked their return to the top tier following a 45-year absence by registering a 3-0 win at Crystal Palace in their first game in the Premier League in August 2017.

And he also played his part in a 1-0 victory over Newcastle as the Terriers registered back-to-back victories to start 2017/18, a season in which David Wagner’s underdogs regularly showed their teeth and stayed up against the odds.

However, in stark contrast, Billing stomached the bitter taste of defeat just 12 months later, a chastening 3-0 reverse at Chelsea the first of a 10-match winless run which saw them plummet to the foot of the Premier League.

And although he started their only three league wins in 2018/19 – against Fulham and a double over Wolves – Billing’s time at the John Smith’s Stadium ended in disappointment as Huddersfield were relegated at the end of March.  

Speaking to afcb.co.uk ahead of the visit of the promoted Blades, Billing said: “As a Huddersfield player, last season was very frustrating.

“We won three games in the Premier League all season and confidence in the team was low.

“As a young player, it was the first time I’d been in a situation like that. Even though it wasn’t great and didn’t feel good at all, I was determined to learn from the experience.

“Of course, I hope I will never be in that position again. But if I am, I will know how to react better and be more experienced.

“I remember our first Premier League game when we came up against Crystal Palace and beat them 3-0.

“Sheffield United is probably going to be one of the hardest games for us. They will come here with something to prove and will want to show people they are here to stay.

“We have to be at it in every game. We need to start strongly and keep it going for the full 90 minutes.”

Billing, who was named young player of the year at Huddersfield on three occasions, played the first 60 minutes against Lyon before he was replaced by Corey Jordan.

“It’s gone really well for me since I arrived,” he added. “I have been playing catch-up because I hadn’t really done any pre-season before I came.

“I felt good in my first game. I was a little heavy legged but, apart from that, I felt strong. It was a friendly and Sheffield United is a Premier League game. I think it will be more intense and faster.

“I just have to get used to the way we play and get used to all the players. I’m learning, taking things in and trying to improve as a player. Hopefully, I can contribute to the team.

“The manager being demanding of you only means you are going to expect more of yourself and become a better player as well. Everything is intense and fast and, for me, that’s something I needed to improve on to take the next step in my career.

“That was one of the reasons I came here. I looked at the squad and thought it was fantastic. You can only learn from the manager and I think I definitely will. It has all been very positive so far and I’m enjoying it very much.”

Billing also knows his chances of realising his dream to play for his country will ultimately be determined by his club form.

In his first 10 games for Denmark under-21s, he finished up on the losing team just once – against Germany at the Euros in Udine in June 2019.

He received his first call-up to the full squad in March 2019 and was an unused substitute in European Championship qualifiers against Kosovo and Switzerland, which were both drawn.

“My record with the under-21s isn’t too bad but, unfortunately, I’m too old to play for them now,” added Billing.

“For me, my focus is on the A team and, to play for them, you have to perform for your club. This season is very important so I just want to do everything I can for this club and, hopefully, get the chance to play for my country as well.”

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