Kalvin Phillips: Five things you may not know about England midfield hero

The Leeds midfielder capped an impressive display for Gareth Southgate’s side by setting up Raheem Sterling’s decisive second-half goal

Mark Walker
Monday 14 June 2021 11:41
'Feels great' to give England fans joy, Southgate says

Kalvin Phillips won rave reviews for his performance for England in their 1-0 win against Croatia in their opening Euro 2020 match.

The Leeds midfielder capped an impressive display for Gareth Southgate’s side by setting up Raheem Sterling’s decisive second-half goal.

Here, we look at five things you may not know about Phillips.

Bielsa polishes rough diamond

Phillips, right, made 10 Championship appearances for Leeds during 2015/16 after making his debut towards the end of the previous season

Phillips, 25, progressed through Leeds’ academy and was handed his first-team debut by former boss Neil Redfearn in a 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 and was rewarded with his first England cap against Denmark in a Nations League game last September. He made his ninth appearance for the Three Lions against Croatia.

Not just a ‘stopper’

Bielsa transformed a combative young midfielder with a keen eye for a shot on goal into one of the country’s best young defensive midfield players, but Phillips proved a revelation in England’s opening Group D match at Euro 2020 against Croatia as boss Southgate chose to play him in a more advanced role. Dubbed “the Yorkshire Pirlo” by Leeds fans, that nickname was picked up by the tournament’s Twitter account after Phillips showed he is much more than a holding player, timing his run in the build-up to Sterling’s winner to perfection and cutting inside before laying on a beautifully-weighted assist.

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’.”

Loyalty rewarded

Phillips celebrates Leeds' promotion to the Premier League with Jack Harrison, left, and Helder Costa

Aston Villa made a reported offer in excess of £25million for Phillipsafter Leeds lost out to Derby in the Championship play-off semi-finals in 2019. 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 in a bid to win Premier League promotion with his boyhood club. Unfazed by the leap to the top flight, the Yorkshireman’s star has continued to soar and his value today is in the region of £50m.

Driven to make a difference

Kalvin Phillips, right, takes a knee in support of the fight against racism before England's friendly with Romania

Phillips revealed in November last year that his father, Mark, was serving a prison sentence at Wealstun, which is close to Leeds’ Thorp Arch training ground and that they speak twice a month. Phillips has paid tribute to his mother, Lindsay, for the selfless role she played in raising him, his brother and two sisters. Away from the pitch he has been vocal in his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, claiming he feels responsible as a prominent black footballer to actively help in the fight against racism.