'A fantastic athlete' - England boss Gareth Southgate raves about Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips ahead of Poland clash

Gareth Southgate is full of praise for the way Kalvin Phillips has handled the step up to international football during his first season as a Premier League player.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 12:49 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 12:54 pm
STEP UP - Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips has delighted England boss Gareth Southgate with the way he's handled the step up to international competition. Pic: PA

The England manager, speaking ahead of tonight's World Cup Qualifying clash with Poland, is pleased with his defensive midfield options, namely Phillips and West Ham man Declan Rice.

Although the debate surrounding the pair has often pitted them against one another as direct rivals for a starting place, Southgate paired them in the midfield for Sunday's game against Albania, which England won 2-0.

Southgate was impressed with Rice, not only for his defensive capabilities, in England's latest outing.

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"Well he's a very mature player," he said.

"His tactical reading of the game, the ability to fill the right spaces, you only have to watch his club matches to see how many regains of the ball he gets and turnovers of the ball. In that position it's a key attribute. But I also think on Sunday his use of the ball was good, he developed the play well, he's got the burst of pace to stride forward with the ball and get clear of defenders."

The Three Lions boss is also delighted with the progress Leeds' home-grown midfielder Phillips has made as he takes his first steps in international football.

This is just his third England camp, having missed the November international games with a shoulder problem, and he's still only got 21 top flight games under his belt having spent his entire career at Elland Road, yet he's evidently handling the step up in level well enough for his national team boss.

"I have to say I've also been really pleased with Kalvin Phillips " said Southgate.

"We picked him in actual fact before he played a Premier League game. He's adapted really well to international football, he's a fabulous character to have around, fantastic athlete and he uses the ball really well. We're very pleased with those two guys in that area of the pitch."

Poland will be without Phillips' Leeds team-mate Mateusz Klich for tonight's game. The midfielder tested positive for Covid-19 last week and has been self-isolating in a hotel before his return to England. He's expected to be available for Leeds' Premier League clash with Sheffield United on Saturday.