From Kalvin Phillips to Illan Meslier, Leeds United's 'glory days' are back - David Prutton

THE demands of the March internationals are meaning three games within a week and Kalvin Phillips is the Leeds United headline act with the England squad.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 5:45 am

But the number of games and travel that someone like Phillips is subsequently facing is a nice concern because he is the first Leeds United player to force his way into the England side for a decade and a half.

It’s a lovely conundrum to have.

This is obviously a very busy season, and the most peculiar one any of us have ever come across, and fitness wise AND injuries wise you just hope that the likes of Phillips stand up and get through the games.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

EXALTED COMPANY: Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips, third left, congratulates England team mate Raheem Sterling after his strike in Thursday's 5-0 victory against San Marino. Photo by Frank Augstein - Pool/Getty Images.

But Phillips seems like a robust athlete and a fit lad so I think he will just be relishing the games and, as much as he might be feeling it in the legs, very soon it will be the off season and a chance to recharge.

By then it will be a season that we will all look back on with a sense of achievement, I think.

Phillips seems to spark a bit of debate amongst fans with England but there is always that sense of tribalism.

If you are a West Ham fan, then you think that you have got one of the best young midfielders in England in Declan Rice but if you are a Leeds United fan, then you probably think Kalvin is a better player and that’s just as a straight comparison.

That’s just how everyone feels and it’s the same if you have got Jack Grealish in the team or James Maddison or Mason Mount.

You all think that particular player in that particular position is one of the best ones at it because you have got that fondness and loyalty to that particular player.

Phillips has managed to work his way into the England team through what he has done with Leeds, which has been phenomenal really, and he plays in a position which very much helps a team play in a certain way.

But the position that he plays in wouldn’t necessarily mean that he would absolutely beam out because it’s an economical and efficient position on the pitch that needs to be done with the minimum of fuss.

What Kalvin has turned into is a player who, more often than not, does that with a huge helping from a very, very good coach.

If he slots into that position in the England midfield and allows players that we know can cause real problems going forward, then that feels like his job is done.

England seem to have a lot of players like Grealish and Maddison who can play in that particular pocket going forward but then you look a bit further back.

Declan Rice has done what he has done over a longer period of time with West Ham and with a team that has had a better season than Leeds, having started off on a better footing because of their established Premier League status.

That means Declan will be getting leant on more than Kalvin but strength in competition for those places can only make the team better and, if push comes to shove, then Kalvin can also slot in to the back line as well.

It means there is a pleasing versatility there and a spot available at the Euros for a player like that.

Leeds will return to action with Saturday’s clash at home to Sheffield United and Patrick Bamford has been speaking, saying that a top-ten finish should be the minimum aim.

That would be phenomenal and a ridiculously good achievement but he is right to aim high.

As much as there has got to be a balance and a realism, a top-half finish is infinitely doable.

Whether that is then the case remains to be seen in the remaining games but, if you are a Leeds United fan and you hear your star striker saying that, then it can only fill you with excitement and joy because you are thinking ‘we fancy that and they fancy it so let’s give it a right good crack’.

Over the course of the season, Leeds have shown what they can do to good teams and what they can do to not-so-good teams so I think it is well within their capabilities, absolutely.

There has even been talk this weekend that Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Whites keeper Illan Meslier.

As much as we miss packing the stadiums out and packing people in, this is truly ‘glory days’ for Leeds when we are talking about whether their pivotal midfielder would be a shoo-in for a European tournament for the English national team and their goalkeeper being chased by one of the biggest clubs, financially, in Europe.

All this when me, Tresor Kandol, Leon Constantine and Matt Heath, and I say this with insane fondness and utmost respect, were running around a pitch for Dennis Wise for nothing in trying to put a team together on the back of the club being on its knees.

It has been a long and arduous journey but it does show you that from bad times, good times can eventually spring.

A message from the Editor:

Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.

We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.

Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.

With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Click here to subscribe.

For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.

Thank you Laura Collins