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Phillips: I didn’t want to leave

LEE Phillips today rocked Weymouth on the eve of their Conference South trip to Sutton United by insisting he did not want to leave the Terras.

The striker, who joined Exeter City with Steve Tully on free transfers earlier this week, revealed he only left the Wessex Stadium because he did not feel ‘wanted’.

And speaking exclusively to Echosport, the former Plymouth Argyle star refuted claims he was a disruptive figure in the Radipole Lane dressing room.

Phillips said: “I’ve read a lot of things said about me over the last couple of days and 1 think it’s important I give the fans my side of the story.

“The truth is that 1 did not want to leave the club – I really hope Weymouth get promoted and if they do, I wish I was part of it.

“But 1 didn’t want to be part of a club where I’m not wanted and it was clear that was the case.

“I’ve had four great years with Weymouth, scoring a lot of goals and I’ve a lot of time for the club.

“I’ve always made no secret of the fact I wanted to return to the professional game but I can honestly say I wasn’t thinking about a move at this time.

“I’ve had chances to move over the years but always turned them down because I wanted to play for Weymouth.

“I’ve always given 100 per cent for the club and anyone who suggests otherwise is simply lying.

“I’ll admit it’s been a frustrating couple of months, both from the team and my own standpoint, but I wasn’t unhappy at the club.

“It’s been suggested I might have been an unsettling force in the dressing room but I know what went on and know that was not the case.

“Some of the stuff being said about me, especially on the internet, is simply wrong.

“For example, it’s been suggested someone heard me say to Steve Tully in my last game up at Redbridge that I wanted out.

“That’s not the case – I might have been frustrated with the loss – but I simply did not want to leave.

“Then for the chairman Martyn Harrison to come out and say that ‘now we’ve got 23 happy players in the dressing room’ is unbelievable because I know for a fact that is not true.”

Phillips also lifted the lid on the role former boss Steve Claridge played in his move to the Grecians.

“Everything started when I got a call from Steve Johnson saying the club had accepted an offer from Aldershot for me,” he said.

“It was out of the blue and I was a bit taken aback.

“I called Steve Claridge and asked him to advise me on the deal as apart from moving to Weymouth four years ago, I’ve never been involved in transfer negotiations before.

“I wanted to make sure I’d get a fair deal and appreciated Steve’s advice.

“He wasn’t my agent or anything like that – he was simply helping me out.

“As it was, I turned down the move because of the travelling involved from my Plymouth home.

“The break down of the deal obviously upset Steve Johnson who made it clear he wanted rid of me.

“Exeter City then came in for me but Weymouth said that move could only happen if they took Steve Tully as well, who wanted to leave as he had handed in an earlier transfer request.”

Now out of the Wessex Stadium, Phillips reckons Harrison’s decision to sack Claridge last November was a ‘disaster’.

And the striker admits to relishing the prospect of life with Conference National Exeter City.

“Sacking Steve Claridge will prove to be the biggest mistake Weymouth have ever made,” he said.

“I’m not saying the players there now are not good enough but I feel the one’s they’ve got rid of over the last few months were better than the current playing staff.

“It’s a shame because I have a lot of time for all the fans but I think they deserve better than they’re getting.

“I really hope things work out for them – in the meantime though I’m looking forward to my new career at Exeter.

“They are a big club with a lot of good players and I’m delighted to have signed a contract until the end of next season.

“The manager Alex Inglethorpe seems to have a lot of faith in me and I can’t wait to start playing regularly.”

Meanwhile Johnson has swooped to sign another Yeovil Town player on loan.

Striker Kezie Ibe has signed a one- month deal with Weymouth and is in line to replace the suspended Kirk Jackson at Gander Green Lane tomorrow.

Also out is defender Mark Boyce who is banned after totting up five bookings.

Defender Charlie Welch will have a late fitness test after suffering stomach cramps this week.

Boss Johnson said: “It’s important the players believe in themselves – if they do that we can stop this streak of three matches without a win.

“We held clear the talks during the week and since then every player has put that little bit extra into training.

“Hopefully the players will show as much commitment tomorrow.”

Midfielder Martin Barlow could return to training in the next fortnight, Terras officials have confirmed.

It had been feared the former Plymouth Argyle star would have to retire after suffering a back injury earlier this season.

But Barlow, who is undergoing specialist treatment, could be back training in two to three weeks.

Johnson said: “It’ll be good to have Martin back.

He’s been through a lot in the last few months so this is good news.”

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