He had to bide his time, but Daniel Phillips is slowly but surely becoming one of the transfer finds of the Scottish Premiership. 

The 22-year-old St Johnstone midfielder moved to McDiarmid Park on a two-year deal in August, and game time was initially hard to come by, mainly due to the form of a crowded Saints squad who were flying high prior to the World Cup break. 

Results since have not been as impressive and in response, manager Callum Davidson has been forced to freshen his side up to find the required solution to stop the rot. 

Davidson’s team hit rock bottom when they trailed Livingston 3-0 at half-time on January 14, but for Phillips, his subsequent introduction was the chance he needed to showcase his undoubted talents to help fight his way into a starting XI spot. 

“I’m not happy when I’m not playing,” he explains to Herald and Times Sport. And that is why the Trinidad and Tobago internationalist decided to speak up and chap on his manager’s door to ask questions. 

“I think the manager will tell you that I am very quick to knock on his door when I am not playing! I am a player who likes to play. 

“I did knock on his door and he was quite frank with me. He said at the time the team were doing well and he said he needed a bit more from me. 

“I was honest with myself too. I didn’t have the best pre-season because I wasn’t at a club and I was struggling a bit with injury. I knew I had to raise my levels to be in contention to play in this team. 

“I always train at intensity. I think it was more what I was doing away from training that helped me to come back in better shape to go into the team. 

“I had a bit more focus on my diet and my time outside of the training ground. I worked on getting my sleep pattern better and doing a bit of extra training outside. It has all come together, which I am delighted about. 

“I was waiting for an opportunity and I am glad that I was able to grab my opportunity with both hands. Hopefully I can now get a bit of consistency going.” 

Phillips has formed an impressive partnership with fellow central midfielder Cammy MacPherson in recent weeks and the pair’s relationship appears to be growing in confidence and style with every game they play. 

It took a while for Davidson to settle on a midfield partnership, but the St Johnstone boss now appears to have found the battling combination that can fire his team to success this season. 

“It is brilliant to play with Cammy,” explained Phillips. “It is a very natural, unspoken understanding that we have. We first ended up on the pitch against Livingston in the second half when we were 3-0 down at half-time. 

“Straight away we just seemed to be in sync. I think Cammy is a player who is very dynamic, he wins a lot of tackles and it fills you with confidence when you know you have someone next to you who can get around and win the ball. 

“He is just always there. I think we are a bit similar to be honest in terms of our playing style, but we definitely complement each other well. We both want the ball and with him showing for the ball I will have space, or vice versa. 

“Out of possession, we rat really well. We make it uncomfortable for the opposition midfielders.” 

Phillips knows that his place in the team is not guaranteed but he believes the battle for places can only improve the performances of the players who are given the nod to start. 

Saints currently have a squad of 30, meaning Davidson is forced to leave a number of his players out of his matchday squad on a weekly basis. It would be easy to suggest that this would result in unrest in the camp, but Phillips has detailed the strong support network that keeps morale high. 

He continued: “There is a lot of competition in the squad as a whole. It is very important as it keeps the standards high in training. It keeps everyone on their toes. 

“Everyone knows they have to perform well to stay in the team, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. 

“While I was out of the team a lot of the players got around me like we do with everyone. 

“It is tough having a big squad at times. People probably want to play more. But we are a team and everyone is just looking for the best possible results as a team. 

“Even when we went on the poor run of form I don’t think the spirit dropped at all. The boys got around each other and said we need to get back to basics. 

“We have improved our performances step by step and now we just need to add results on the board.” 

Saints travel to Tannadice on Saturday for a huge Tayside Derby tussle with Dundee United and with the league so tight, the fixture is vitally important for both sides. 

Over 1,500 visiting fans will be in attendance in the City of Discovery and Phillips will be aiming to send the large travelling support home happy. 

He added: “We are looking forward to it. We had a tough result against Celtic in the last game. But we were quite happy with the performance. We know we can go and get a big result if we perform well again at the weekend. 

“The league is very tight. We want to put as much distance as possible between the teams below us. At the same time we have an eye on the teams above us, we can catch them. A couple of wins in a row and suddenly you are looking up the table aren’t you? 

“The fans will be massive. All season they have been a big part of what we have achieved on the pitch. 

“Whether we have won or lost they have been so vocal in their support, and we are going to need them again in a derby game. The aim is three points and a happy crowd.”