Kalvin Phillips is a destiny that seems inextricably woven into our national collective fate - Ben Shires

Ben Shires discusses the rise of Kalvin Phillips and his fairytale story that has seen him reach the Euros final.

Sunday, 11th July 2021, 4:45 am
Pic: Getty Images

In years to come, when we look back on England’s sensational run to the Euro 2020 final with the kind of era-defining nostalgia usually reserved for the summer of ’96, one name will come to define this unlikely fairytale beyond all others: Kalvin Phillips

There are plenty of Leeds fans who don’t believe in fairytales of course, and for good reason; sixteen years in the wilderness can do that to you. But for our Kalvin, his is a destiny that seems inextricably woven into our national collective fate.

To begin with, his timing has been impeccable; had coronavirus and its devastating impacts never happened, had the tournament taken place when it was meant to or had Gareth Southgate not had the chance to witness Phillips establish himself so effortlessly in the Premier League first, it’s likely Kalvin’s role in England’s success this summer would have been limited to watching in on telly like the rest of us. Instead, he has embraced every opportunity thrown his way during a time of global instability to become the ever present rock at the heart of England’s midfield.

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It all seems so certain now, as Phillips’ seemingly inevitable rise to global recognition has merely confirmed everything the Elland Road faithful already knew about our best player, but it wasn’t always so. Even the most ardent of Yorkshire Pirlo-ites will surely admit to doubts during young Kalvin’s early and often unsuccessful forays into the first team under Messrs Redfearn, Rösler and Evans.

Back then he was a box-to-box midfielder, struggling to nail down a place both on the pitch and in the hearts of the fans. That was until divine intervention arrived in the shape of Marcelo Bielsa. Their first meeting was a fateful one - as the Argentinian inspected his new charges on their first day together, he greeted some by name, others with just a nod, but Phillips was bestowed with three career-shaping words: ‘you number 4’.

When Marcelo speaks, others listen and his vision kickstarted a new and unheralded chapter in Kalvin’s story. A holding midfielder was born whose held is nerve, and our attention, ever since. Come Sunday, as a whole nation draws it breath in nervous anticipation, a young lad from Wortley could just give us all a fairytale ending.