'Don’t you ever stick your hand up to take a penalty for England in a final again!' - Leeds United fan's emotional letter to Kalvin Phillips going viral
An open letter to Kalvin Phillips penned by a Leeds United fan is capturing the imagination of England fans and going viral.
Jack Tabner's 'Dear Kalvin' letter, which articulates what the midfielder means to him after his journey to the Euro 2020 final, has attracted praise from supporters of rival clubs and Whites alike.
"I'm 29 now so I grew up during the O'Leary years," he told the YEP.
"My earliest Leeds United memory is of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and I remember going to the Champions League games with my Dad. Barcelona's Rivaldo extra-time goal at Elland Road still stings.
"I felt compelled to write something to help process the emotions of the last few weeks. It's something I did after the Derby play-off defeat too, but I never did anything with it. When I sat down to work on Monday morning and was seeing the horrible backlash on Twitter, I wanted to let Kalvin know what he's done for Leeds fans and continue the positivity and kindness the club and us fans all seem to perpetuate under Marcelo Bielsa.
"I showed it to my wife who arrived late to being a Leeds fan and when she welled up. I thought it might capture the Leeds mood."
The response has proved his instinct correct, with several hundred Retweets and over 5,000 likes on Twitter since he posted it last night.
An Arsenal fan replied: "Absolutely love this. Me and my 11 year old are Arsenal fans but we’ve loved watching Leeds and Kalvin in the past year. Saka is my boy’s favourite player and he was a bit upset last night, but we loved the video of Kalvin consoling him & grateful for him in general."
Twitter user @tony_ullman added: "I am not, never have been, nor ever will be, a Leeds fan - far from it! - but this is a wonderful message to a superb player and role model respected, along with all his teammates, right across the country."
Here is the letter in full.
I wanted to write to you to express how proud I am of you. You don’t know me, but I am one of thousands upon thousands of Leeds United fans who have enjoyed this England team and this tournament, largely because of you.
We always knew you were as good as your performances have been – we watch you do it every week for Leeds. But it has been a pleasure having so many quiet I told you so moments – your assist vs. Croatia, your thumping challenge on Havertz and sending Kroos into retirement, seeing you subbed against Ukraine because the nation had woken up to just how important you are to our team and couldn’t risk your suspension, your running stats and pressing numbers after every game, that touch against Denmark, your relentless harrying of
Verratti, Jorginho and Insigne in the Final and constantly demanding the ball.
You were just playing your normal game, now with the whole of Europe watching one of the finest midfielders of a generation.
Perhaps the most gratifying thing of all hasn’t been your footballing performances, but the way you’ve conducted yourself. Probably without any concerted effort, you have been a paragon of virtue, humility, kindness and social conscience – and your cheeky grin, your bromance with Ben White and your loving relationship with your family have given us a warmth that we’ve all needed as a nation. It came as no surprise to me that you were the first to scoop up Saka when the last penalty was missed. What a man you have become.
What’s more is the significance of what you represent for so many underrepresented people. You have been a beacon of light for working class people, black people, for Wortley, for the City of Leeds and for proud, understated Yorkshire folk. There will be a spike in the number of Kalvins starting school in a few years, and they will all be pretending to be you when they play in the park.
I am an adult man, writing a letter (when I should be working) to another adult man who grew up a few miles away from me. And yet the pride I’ve felt watching you these last few weeks has been the closest thing I’ve come to feeling like a father. While this is all getting a bit ridiculous, I know many blokes who have watched you these last few years at Leeds will also be feeling this way today.
If you’ve made it this far reading my letter, I only have 3 asks of you:
- Get yourself back to Leeds, enjoy the outpouring of love that is inevitably coming your way and get ready to lead us into another brilliant season
- Don’t you ever stick your hand up to take a penalty for England in a championship final ever again, you nearly gave us all a heart attack when we saw you volunteering in the huddle
- In the words of a bursting with pride Granny Val, don’t let any of this go to your head and keep your feet on the ground
We may have woken up having lost the final, but Leeds fans all woke up feeling like winners because of you.
Thank you, Kalvin. You make us all so proud to be Leeds.