'He's been fantastic for me' - O'Neil says Billing can play 'many roles' for Cherries
INTERIM head coach Gary O'Neil praised the "fantastic" displays of Philip Billing during his time in charge so far, insisting the Dane has given "absolutely everything at every moment".
Billing's performances in the win at Nottingham Forest and draw at Newcastle United earned him nominations for the prestigious Premier League player of the month and goal of the month awards for September, having netted in both fixtures.
While Billing missed out on both prizes, to Manchester United's Marcus Rashford and Brentford striker Ivan Toney respectively, the company he kept among the shortlists highlighted his recent impact on the team.
Asked what the 26-year-old had been like to coach in recent weeks, O'Neil told the Daily Echo: "He’s been great.
"I think you’ve seen he’s extremely talented. He’s a good lad.
"I judge him on what I’ve asked him to give the last three games and what he’s given.
"What he’s given is absolutely everything at every moment, so much so that at the end of some games I look at him and think ‘you’ve given everything, we need to get you off’.
"But he’s been fantastic for me. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the same on Saturday."
Billing originally operated in a deeper midfield role under Eddie Howe following his £15million switch to Cherries from Huddersfield Town in 2019.
But following Jonathan Woodgate taking the reins during the 2020-21 Championship campaign, Billing was moved to a more advanced role and showed his goalscoring prowess.
The Denmark international netted in Woodgate's first game in interim charge, a 3-2 win over Birmingham City, before a spate of goals fired Cherries into the play-offs.
He again showed his goalscoring touch under Scott Parker last term, bagging 11 across all competitions.
In his 57 appearances under Howe and Jason Tindall, Billing scored just four goals.
In 70 games since, under Woodgate, Parker and O'Neil, the Copenhagen-born ace has netted 20 times.
Despite his hot streak last campaign, Parker returned Billing to a deeper role at the beginning of this campaign, but O'Neil has since moved him further forwards after taking over as head coach.
Asked if he feels that is where he sees Billing contributing most at Cherries, O'Neil explained: "I think he can do many roles for us.
"I think he’ll go through spells like he is at the minute where playing higher up will look like it’s a good idea.
"But also if I played him as a number eight, I expect him to be as good at that as he is playing as a 10.
"I think he’s technically talented, has physical attributes. I think he’s really important for us, whether that’s as an eight or as a 10, whatever it is.
"He’s a big part of what we do."
Billing will be looking to score for the third game in a row when Cherries welcome Brentford to Vitality Stadium tomorrow (3pm).