"Everything"- Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper sum up what Leeds United's Premier League status means

Kalvin Phillips spoke for every single Leeds United fan across the world when he summed up what promotion and Premier League football means to him and to them: “Everything.”

By Graham Smyth
Saturday, 18th July 2020, 1:55 pm

A dream the local boy has harboured for 16 years had just come true, so it was always going to be a struggle to find the words to articulate his emotions, not long after Huddersfield’s win over West Brom handed a top-two spot to the Whites.

Phillips and his fellow players gathered together at Elland Road to watch that game, a 2-1 win for their West Yorkshire rivals that ensured Marcelo Bielsa’s team cannot now be caught by the Baggies.

The goals that finished the job for Leeds United came elsewhere, but this was no anticlimax.

Social media was soon awash with videos of wild celebrations, from the unprintable, in the case of a merry Mateusz Klich, to the poignant, from a tearful Pablo Hernandez.

Bielsa himself wasn’t there by that stage, of course.

But footage of him smiling and elbow-bumping overjoyed well-wishers in Wetherby felt fitting.

The Argentine is a man of the people.

SCENES - Leeds United's squad salute their fans from the windows of Elland Road after promotion to the Premier League was secured. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Making the people of Leeds and beyond happy is what he does.

Outside the stadium his hectic, addictive brand of football has graced for two years, yellow and blue smoke from celebrating Whites filled the air.

As members of the Leeds United family began to gather around Billy Bremner’s statue, Phillips took calls from his loved ones, including Granny Val, an unofficial club mascot.

“I can’t put it into words, it’s crazy,” said Phillips, the broadness of his smile audible.

“Everyone’s just laughing and cheering, you know we’re ecstatic.

“I never thought I’d be a Huddersfield supporter for a day, today was the day.

“A lot of thanks to them for doing the job. I’m so happy right now.”

Phillips has given his formative years to this club but what he has received in return is a place at English football’s top table and the potential to play the game at a level beyond club football.

Bielsa has changed this young man’s life.

“When the manager first came I never thought I’d be in this position two years down the line, the manager and the coaching staff are a massive part of that,” he said.

“He’s the best manager in the world, there’s no manager I’d rather be under than Marcelo Bielsa right now.

“At my age, developing, he’s the perfect manager to have. I can’t really speak to be honest.”

For Liam Cooper, club captain and another blessed enough to play for his boyhood club, words came a little easier but the scale of what he and his team-mates have done hadn’t fully hit him.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said.

“I’m sure it’ll sink in, we’re just over the moon.

“Our club, our fans and our players we’ve sacrificed so much, been in the doldrums for 16 years.

“To be part of this team and lead this team back to where we know we’ve always belonged is unbelievable.

“I’m so proud of these boys, they’ve sacrificed so much, worked so hard and they deserve it.

“We’ve been the best team all season on a consistent level and we’ve got the job done.”

He too thanked and praised Bielsa for taking him to heights he didn’t think possible and wanted to share the plaudits with everyone who has contributed, from owner Andrea Radrizzani to the directors to the coaching staff and club employees.

“They’ve given us everything and allowed us to go and achieve our dreams,” he gushed, proudly.

“I’m a 28-year-old man now fulfilling his boyhood dreams. This smile is going to take some wiping off my face.”

The smile might just be gone by the time Cooper leads the team out at Derby on Sunday. Bielsa wants the title and so do his players.

“All our focus will be on that, 100 per cent,” he said.

“We set out to be promoted and now we want to be champions and lift that trophy. With this group of players I feel unstoppable, that’s how they make me feel.”

The celebrations have begun in earnest and they will last for decades. Ending a 16-year exile from the top flight is a feat for the ages.

Leeds’ seventh promotion to the top tier of English football is a special one, coming in a centenary year.

It will stand as a tribute to club legends Norman Hunter, Trevor Cherry and Jack Charlton who passed away in the months and weeks leading up to this moment.

This season, the performances, the goals and the tactics will be poured over for weeks to come.

The future, for Leeds United and Phillips, however, is still too big and too exciting to even begin to explain.

“Just everything,” said Phillips, when asked what he was looking forward to.

“The whole thing, the Premier League, the biggest footballing league in the world, playing the biggest clubs.

“Leeds United – we’re back in there.

“Sixteen years we’ve been waiting for this.”