'He can do every aspect' - England boss Gareth Southgate on 'under the radar' Leeds United man Kalvin Phillips ahead of Euro 2020 Scotland clash
Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips is no longer under the radar as a midfielder who can do it all for England, says Gareth Southgate.
Ahead of the Three Lions’ Wembley clash with Scotland on Friday night, in their second Euro 2020 group game, Southgate has issued a ringing endorsement of Leeds-born Phillips.
His performance in the opening game against Croatia earned him the man-of-the-match award along with plaudits from a host of pundits and players past and present.
It also stunned his critics, those who bemoaned his place in the starting XI, into silence.
Phillips played in a more advanced role than the one that has made him a vital part of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side, pressed Croatia aggressively and made himself an attacking threat.
It was Phillips’ run into space, skill and vision that provided the assist for Raheem Sterling’s winner - the exclamation mark on a solid claim to a starting place against the Scots.
Southgate was not among those taken by surprise.
“Not so much, I think when we have worked with him earlier in the season we came to the end of the matches saying this boy is going to be a really important player for us,” he said.
“He can do every aspect of the game. He can break the game up. He is diligent and, of course, at Leeds they play one-v-one and man-for-man marking so he tracks his runners.
“He’s got a good passing range and he has a goal in him. The role he plays for his club is normally as the pivot, a little bit deeper. But he can get forward and his set-play delivery is good.”
It has been evident from some of the debate surrounding the England team that, outside Leeds at least, many were labouring under the misapprehension that Phillips did not have it in his locker to add more than grit and safe passing to Southgate’s midfield.
He played a box-to-box role at Leeds before Bielsa’s arrival at Elland Road and scored seven goals in the season that preceded the Argentine taking charge.
The England manager, although pleased that his midfielder has been able to emerge from the international shadows gradually, is certain Phillips’ full abilities are now common knowledge.
“I’m pleased in a way that he has been under the radar,” said Southgate. “I think everyone is aware now what he is capable of.”