"You never imagine they will make it" - Kalvin Phillips' former football teacher delights in England star's success

In the first year that Whingate Primary School held a football awards evening for its year six pupils - a certain Kalvin Phillips won the gold award.

By Emma Ryan
Friday, 9th July 2021, 3:20 pm

Sunday night sees the now 25-year-old Leeds United midfielder and England international hoping for the top award once again.

As Phillips, his team-mates and the nation prepare for England's first ever European final and the first major final for 55 years - staff and pupils at his old school are already celebrating his success, regardless of Sunday's result.

Even staff and pupils who aren't football fans have found themselves getting swept along by football fever which has seen children donning England kits and top knots in lessons this week.

"He's magic you know". Pupils at Kalvin Phillips' former primary school are his biggest fans.

But one teacher, who is definitely a fan is Andy Rhodes, currently a year three teacher, but he also taught football when Phillips was at the school before he left in 2007. He was picked up by Leeds United a couple of years later.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Me and another teacher ran the football team at that time. You never imagine any of them will make it but he was the best footballer I have ever taught. The thing that made him stand out was the energy - he never stopped running. We have had really skillful children and great strikers, but he was everywhere on the pitch. I used to watch him score free kicks and his Wolves debut and being amazed just watching him."

The school hopes that Phillips, who still lives locally, can inspire the children - both on and off the field.

Mr Rhodes added: "They can see that he has that good guy personna. He does a lot of work in the community and that genuinely seems to be part of the ethos of the England team and he fits with that.

Karen Loney, co-head teacher at Whingate Primary School, with teacher Andy Rhodes.

"In terms of a role model, he could not be better. He is brilliant at what he does but is someone the children can relate to. He really has not changed, he is very laid-back."

Co-headteacher, Karen Loney added: "He achieved his dream and we want all our children to do that. He did it with hard work, grit and determination - and a smile on his face. What a brilliant role model and inspiration for our children."

Ms Loney said the school was "buzzing" and that during a wear football kits to school day, ahead of last Wednesday's semi-final against Denmark, several pupils had Phillips written on the back of their shirts.

She said: "A lot of the children are Leeds fans and even those who are not football fans are now football fans and Kalvin is the reason for that. There is definitely a buzz around school. We had a football kits day and there were loads with Phillips on the back and a few children are sporting top knots inspired by Kalvin.

Year 2 pupils Harvey Tomlionson (left ) and Jack Daniel both aged 7 cheering England on to win the Euros.

"We were proud of him when he made it at Leeds United but to make it to the national side and then to play such an instrumental part of the team that made it to the first major final in our lifetime - we are incredibly proud that he came here and the children are so excited."

Ask most of the 400 plus numbers of children at Whingate who their favourite player is and the answer is Kalvin Phillips and most of them are hoping they will be able to stay up to watch Sunday night's final against Italy.

Jack Daniel, aged seven, said: "England made it because Kalvin Phillips is a pro. My dad tried using a big screen like you get in the cinema in the back garden but it didn't work."

Grace Kellman, 11, said: "If he's been able to be a footballer, then we can be what we want to be as well. I think it's going to be 4-3. I think he's going to score a goal as well."

Year 3 and 4 pupils at Whingate Primary school in Leeds (L-R)Noah Stainforth and Sophia Hurley, both aged eight and Theo Willie and Emily Grace Radcliffe, both aged nine, with their England flags.

Noah Parle, also 11, said: "It's just amazing to watch someone that used to go to your school on TV. I think it's going to be 2-2 and then on penalties, 5-4 to England, and Kalvin's going to score one of the normal goals."

Year 5 pupils with their Kalvin Phillips flag.
Year 5 pupils at Whingate Primary laying football.