Published 08 June 2021 2 min read
England Men's Senior Team
Kicking-on with Kalvin
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Just 12 months ago Kalvin Phillips had never kicked a ball in the Premier League, now he’s just days away from realising his dream of representing England at a major tournament.
The Leeds United midfielder has enjoyed an incredible breakthrough season having helped his hometown club back to the Premier League for the first time since they were relegated in 2003-04.
But Phillips had been on Gareth Southgate’s radar prior to last summer’s promotion and unusually made his full England debut before playing any top flight football.
Called up for a pair of UEFA Nations League fixtures in September last year, the now 25 year old remembers feeling distinctly out of his depth before starting in the 0-0 against Denmark.
Having well and truly found his feet over the last year, he reflected with the Official England Podcast host Adam Smith on his first impressions and who has impressed him the most in training.
“The first time I went into training we were doing a possession drill, which we never do at Leeds, and I remember just standing in the middle in awe of what I was seeing,” said Phillips.
“The tempo and how good certain players were was just scary to be honest and I was thinking ‘what am I doing here?’ but once you settle down and relax you realise that it’s because you deserve it.
“I remember Jadon Sancho was unbelievable. He was just dribbling at players so he could go past them and he’s got amazing skill but it’s the same with so many players like Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka. Jude Bellingham now as well - for a 17 year old he’s unbelievable.
“It actually gives me goosebumps thinking about how young he is because he’s a really really good player. He’s shown it in the Champions League and even against Austria the other night he was great.”
Such is the rapid nature of Phillips’ progress; he can easily recall watching England during the 2018 FIFA World Cup at home with his friends in Leeds.
A shoulder injury sustained on the final day of the season looked like it might’ve shattered Phillips’ chances of making the final squad but a speedy recovery means his mates will have to find somewhere else to watch the games this summer.
And England’s first game will be against the same team who Philips and his mates will have watched knock Southgate’s side out of the last major tournament; Croatia.
“I got a text from one of my mates the other day to say he still can’t believe I’m going to the EUROs because he was round my house in 2018 watching Harry Kane score against Panama,” he joked.
“It’s a great feeling but I still don’t think it’s hit me yet. When it actually gets to the tournament I think that’s when I will realise I’m involved on the big stage and hopefully I’m ready for it.
“Obviously we are looking forward to it [playing Croatia] and we know how good they are and how good their players are but we’re more focused on us and how we can start the tournament.
“We’ve prepared for them and we have an amazing set of lads so it’ll be very exciting.”