'I don't really think of owt like that' - Kalvin Phillips on England, as Gareth Southgate attends Leeds United v Sheffield Wednesday

Kalvin Phillips has become a key part of Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United, who were watched by Gareth Southgate at Elland Road on Saturday (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)Kalvin Phillips has become a key part of Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United, who were watched by Gareth Southgate at Elland Road on Saturday (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)
Kalvin Phillips has become a key part of Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United, who were watched by Gareth Southgate at Elland Road on Saturday (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)
The vast majority of the 33,778 Leeds United fans at Elland Road on Saturday believe Kalvin Phillips should play for England and the man who can make that happen just happened to be in attendance.

Phillips’ emergence as a top Championship enforcer, a tough-tackling midfielder with an eye for a pass, and the Premier League interest he has attracted have no doubt put him on the radar of the national team boss Gareth Southgate.

Southgate’s appearance at Elland Road for the Whites’ clash with Sheffield Wednesday prompted a fresh bout of speculation over the 24-year-old’s prospective international future.

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Phillips himself will admit he wasn’t at his absolute best against the Owls, in a bitterly disappointing 2-0 defeat for United, but the knowledge that Southgate was looking on at a game he was involved in will only add further fuel to the Thorp Arch graduate’s fire to succeed.

Earning an international call-up is not at the top of Phillips’ to-do list or at the forefront of his mind, promotion with Leeds United occupies those two slots.

But it’s inevitable, for a young man who has been thrust into the national-media spotlight over the last year, to allow his imagination to wander.

“I don’t really think of ‘owt’ like that,” he said, on the Sky Sports EFL podcast.

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“Obviously I watch England all the time and I put myself in that situation where I think I could play in the England set-up.

“With great work you get the reward of playing for England. I know I’ve got to keep playing the way I am and one day, hopefully I can play for England.

“I’ve got a lot of Leeds fans tweeting me, asking when I’m going to play for England. I take it as a pat on the back, a compliment, it fuels me to try even harder.

“I’ve got a lot of ex-footballers speaking highly of me, people I’ve never met, it’s a good situation and hopefully I can carry on and get Leeds back to where they belong.”

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Pundit Danny Higginbotham threw his weight behind the ‘Phillips for England’ campaign earlier this season, with neither Declan Rice nor Harry Winks apparently cementing their place in a holding midfield role.

Few would argue that Leeds’ defensive midfielder has a future in the Premier League, with or without his beloved boyhood club and, if he continues to develop the way he has under

Marcelo Bielsa, international football is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Having reached a position on the cusp of the top flight and maybe more besides, Phillips is keen not to stand still.

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“I don’t like to just be happy with what I’m doing now, I always want to do more,” he said.

“That’s a big thing for the manager as well, he never wants people to get comfortable, he wants us to feel like we’re working towards something special.”

If Phillips ever does pull on a white shirt that bears three lions instead of a Leeds badge, he will have Bielsa to thank.

The Argentine is a huge admirer of the Wortley lad and the appreciation is mutual.

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Under Bielsa, Phillips has transformed his status as a decent enough player without a real identity or natural position in the Leeds side to one of the best in the Championship in a role he now owns.

His knack of getting his body in just the right position to stop attackers, his passing accuracy and the mobility that allows him to get around the field and pop up in areas all over the pitch have all been key to what Bielsa’s Leeds have achieved.

What Bielsa has done with Leeds is exactly what Bielsa has done with Phillips, but on a larger scale with more moving parts.

He’s given the club and the player a hope for greater things to come. None of it is lost on Phillips.

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“The manager has come in, chosen the players he wanted and done very well with me because, obviously, I wasn’t the best player,” said Phillips.

“I never thought I’d be able to do this well.

“Just the way he makes us train, 100 per cent every day, makes us watch videos on our game, tells us what we’ve done wrong or right.

“When you do something right you know you’ve done well.

“I felt like I could have played anywhere in midfield but he knew what position was best for me and where he wanted me to play.

“The way he’s nurtured me to play in that position has been a massive help.”