The midfielder played more minutes than any other outfield player for his nation in the first round of World Cup qualifiers
Gareth Southgate has praised Kalvin Phillips after the Leeds United midfielder started all three of England’s most recent World Cup qualifiers to put himself in contention for a place in the squad at the delayed European Championship.
Phillips played more minutes than any other outfield player across the games against San Marino, Albania and Poland, with the Three Lions kicking off their qualification campaign with three wins from three.
The 25-year-old, viewed by many as a deputy for the injured Jordan Henderson, will now be pushing hard to be included in Southgate’s squad for the Euros in the summer, with the England boss having been impressed with what he’s seen from the Leeds midfielder.
What has Southgate said?
“We’re really pleased with what Kalvin has done,” the Three Lions boss told reporters at his post-match press conference. “We were going to pick him last March when he was in the Championship [before the pandemic hit]. He came in in August before he had played in the Premier League.
“Kalvin has been a great addition to the group. Super boy, great humility, [a] very, very good player. [He] is really reliable with his rebounding of the ball in midfield. His athleticism is critical.”
The former Middlesbrough manager also discussed the importance of Phillips’ role, alongside fellow midfield pivot Declan Rice, in helping England to survive a scare against Poland following Harry Maguire’s late winner.
He added: “We contemplated making a change for a long time but our attacking players were all having an impact. Declan and Kalvin giving us that stability in front of defence was key. We stuck with it. Sometimes you have to hold your nerve and stick with what you believe to be right.”
Phillips’ rise through the England ranks
Three years ago, the Whites academy graduate had not even been involved with the Three Lions at junior level and was somewhat off the radar playing for Leeds in the Championship.
But the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa has helped transform his game, with the Argentine converting him into a more defensively-minded midfield option and expanding his repertoire upon his arrival at Elland Road.
Southgate also feels that Phillips’ manager at club level has been crucial to his progress, stating: “Marcelo has done an excellent job in developing him as an individual but he has a lot of good qualities that are of his and his family’s making and I know they’ll be very proud.”
Phillips was selected in the EFL Championship Team of the Year in the 2018-19 season and he was at the heart of their successful charge back to the top-flight the following campaign.
The 25-year-old hadn’t even played in the Premier League when he was handed a first cap for England back in September, claiming three more on top of that in 2020.
Since then, Phillips has earned a further three caps in 2021 – all in the starting XI – and he’ll undoubtedly be in Southgate’s thoughts when it comes to selecting his squad for the European Championship in the summer.