Leeds United legend backs Kalvin Phillips to find shooting boots for England after alternative role

Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips in action for England. Pic: GettyLeeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips in action for England. Pic: Getty
Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips in action for England. Pic: Getty
Leeds United great Eddie Gray says it is only a matter of time before Kalvin Phillips scores his first goal for England.

Phillips has risen to prominence as a holding midfielder under Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, but was a man-of-the-match contender after playing a more advanced role in England’s European Championship win against Croatia on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate’s tactics were rewarded as Phillips burst clear of his marker early in the second half of the Group D opener to lay on Raheem Sterling for the game’s only goal.

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Gray said: “Obviously Gareth has got a lot of faith in him. He’s picked him ahead of a lot of terrific players and I thought he was tremendous.

“If he keeps playing in that position it won’t be too long before he’s on the scoresheet for England.

“I think Kalvin’s got the talent to get in and around the opposition box and create things. He did tremendous for the goal and he’s also a lovely striker of the ball.”

Former Leeds winger and manager Gray, widely considered one of the club’s greatest players, said he was not surprised by Southgate’s decision to play Phillips higher up the pitch.

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“I wasn’t, no,” the 73-year-old Scot said. “Kalvin’s got the talent. He’s good on the ball, he’s a great passer of the ball and as I say he’s a good striker of the ball.

“We saw that with the volley he hit in the first half, he timed it very well. I always thought with Kalvin that he would mature into a better player if he gets forward.

“He’s got the energy to get up and down the field. People talk about defensive midfield players – midfield players play box-to-box, that’s the name of the game.

“It was when I played. I played with two great midfield players, (Billy) Bremner and (Johnny) Giles. They worked box-to-box. The two of them scored 115 goals each.”

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Gray expects Phillips to retain his starting place in Sunday’s group game against Scotland at Wembley.

“I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t play against Scotland. That will be interesting,” Gray added.

“Obviously Marcelo plays him in that (deeper) position he wants him in, sometimes he’s even slipped into a back three if Leeds have changed formation during a game.

“But Kalvin’s proved he’s very adaptable and has the package to be an all-round midfield player.

“I just thought he controlled the game in midfield yesterday and deserves all the plaudits he gets.”