'I would be starting him in any team' - ringing endorsement for England Euros credentials of Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips

Tyler Roberts has backed Leeds United team-mate Kalvin Phillips to start for England at the European Championships.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 5:23 pm
INTERNATIONAL PALS - Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips and West Ham United's Declan Rice can both fill a midfield spot for England boss Gareth Southgate. Pic: Getty

The pair are close friends so Roberts’ endorsement comes as no surprise, but his argument for Phillips in Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions side is compelling. Phillips is one of a number of senior players at Elland Road who have gone from Championship regulars to Premier League operators and their ability to compete so capably in the top flight has given Roberts great comfort.

“They have obviously been there from the start under Marcelo Bielsa like a lot of us but they have been playing for the last three seasons,” he told The Beautiful Game Podcast.

“For them to come in and kind of just handle the Premier League life the way that they have has just given everyone else that kind of security and safety as in we can all do this. It’s definitely been good for all of us.

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“Obviously Kal is with England now and he has stepped up a lot.”

Phillips was considered a Premier League player before he had kicked a ball in the top flight.

His first season in the Championship under Bielsa led to significant interest from clubs at the highest domestic level and a move to Aston Villa was on the table for a time before he elected to stay put and help Leeds earn promotion.

His role in winning the Championship title was substantial and the reward was an England call-up, before his first Premier League season had even kicked off.

Eight international caps later, the Leeds-born 25-year-old is on the verge of his first major tournament and while Roberts acknowledges Southgate’s style of play and formation will dictate, he believes Phillips is worthy of a starting role when England take on Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic in the group stages.

The obstacles in the way are the more experienced Jordan Henderson and West Ham United's Declan Rice, who has enjoyed more seasons of top flight football and several more caps, but Phillips' Premier League performances this season and the way in which he settled into life in Southgate's squad have placed him firmly in the conversation before the tournament opener.

“I think it has to depend on the way the manager wants to play,” said the attacker, who is in the Wales squad for the Euros.

“The way that Kalvin plays, I love it.

“If I want a CDM [central defensive midfielder] I want him holding it down and making big tackles and when he is getting on it he is just hitting diags.

“If I had a CDM I want him to play like that, so for me I would be starting him in any team really.

“I think he’s definitely shown what he is about this season and he has upped his game and stuff so it’s there for him.

“He could easily start in the Euros.”