Kalvin Phillips has earned his first senior England call-up for next month’s Nations League games against Iceland and Denmark.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five things you may not know about the Leeds midfielder.
1. Bielsa polishes rough diamond
Phillips, 24, progressed through Leeds’ academy and was handed his first-team debut by former boss Neil Redfearn in a 4-3 Championship defeat to Wolves in April 2015. He was one of several homegrown players to become a first-team regular during Garry Monk’s tenure, but came into his own under current boss Marcelo Bielsa, who turned a combative young midfielder with a keen eye for a shot on goal into one of the country’s best young defensive midfield players.
2. Working-class hero
Phillips was born in Bramley as one of triplets – one of his sisters died as a child – and joined Leeds’ academy from local side Wortley Juniors as a 14-year-old after being spotted at a tournament. He had turned up to watch his friends play and was drafted in to make up the numbers. He is fiercely proud of his working-class background and in an interview earlier this year said: “As a family, we’re very close and my mum’s always told me: ‘Don’t ever think you’re better than you are. Be grounded and proud of where you’re from’.”
3. Loyalty rewarded
1 – Kalvin Phillips could become the first Leeds United player to play for the England men's senior team since Alan Smith in March 2004 (v Sweden). Marching. pic.twitter.com/Bn7xIbxVnm— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 25, 2020
Aston Villa made an offer reported to be in excess of £25million for Phillips after Leeds lost out to Derby in the play-off semi-finals last season. Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear later revealed Phillips had made an “absolutely crazy financial decision” to stay at Elland Road and sign a new five-year deal. Kinnear added it was a rare display of player loyalty in the modern game, driven by Phillips’ desire to win promotion to the top flight with his boyhood club.
4. No one-trick pony
A physically-imposing player, Phillips has been a dominant force in the Championship in his screening role in front of Leeds’ defence during their rise under Bielsa, who is a big fan of the player’s versatility. Phillips has an excellent passing range and is a threat from set-pieces. He is comfortable playing further forward in central midfield and can also operate as a centre-half, but his combative nature has already earned him four red cards and he often treads a fine line.
5. ‘The Yorkshire Pirlo’
Phillips, the homegrown hero, is naturally hugely popular with Leeds fans, who have dubbed him “the Yorkshire Pirlo” and has been keen to show his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, claiming he feels responsible as a prominent black footballer to actively help in the worldwide fight against racism. He missed the final three games of the season due to a knee injury as Leeds won the Championship title to secure top-flight football for the first time in 16 years.
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