Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips believes support for England's taking of the knee is heading in 'right direction'

Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips believes support for England players taking the knee is heading in the 'right direction'.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 11:50 am
England players, including Kalvin Phillips, take the knee ahead of kick-off at Wembley. Pic: Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

Phillips is currently away with the Three Lions on international duty at St George's Park ahead of a triple header of World Cup qualifying action.

The 25-year-old enjoyed an impressive summer under head coach Gareth Southgate's watch at the Euros and has cemented his place as a regular in his national team alongside midfield partner Declan Rice.

England head to Hungary on Thursday night for a clash in Budapest before games against Andorra at Wembley and Poland in Warsaw.

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There will be around 60,000 home supporters present at the Puskas Arena as Three Lions fans have not been able to make the trip to Hungary this week amid travel restrictions due to Covid-19.

Hungary will play their next two UEFA-sanctioned home games behind closed doors after being charged with racist and homophobic offences during this summer's delayed Euro 2020 tournament - though World Cup qualifiers come under FIFA's jurisdiction.

England players are set to take the knee in Budapest as they have done all summer and Phillips believes support for the protest is moving forward.

"It's hard to say we're starting to win but we're going in the right direction," Phillips told the Press Association ahead of Thursday's England game.

"The boos at Middlesbrough were disappointing and heartbreaking for us but as time went on, the more vocal we were that we were going to take the knee and support what we believe in... I think a lot of fans understood that and they did switch the other way and carried on cheering for us.

"I obviously know about the situation [in Hungary] and how it's been over there but it's not happened yet, so I can't really say anything on that.

"I just know that us, as a group know, we'll carry on taking the knee because it's important for us, important for our country and to fight racial abuse."

Despite the majority of supporters in-stadium supporting the taking of the knee, a trio of England players were racially abused on social media after missing penalties in the final of the Euros.

Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford all suffered online hate in the aftermath of shoot-out defeat to Italy at Wembley.

"Obviously it is out of our hands," Phillips continued.

"If I had it my way, if I was in charge of any of the social media teams or anything I would just block them or report them to the authorities.

"It is very hard to do that and that is what we are pushing towards. That is what we need to do. For me personally, it doesn't take the edge off it, playing for my country.

"I want to make my family and my country proud, regardless of what goes on outside. I am not going to let things like that [damage playing for England], but other than that it is a major honour."

Phillips was voted England's Men's Player of the Year on Tuesday earning 40,000 votes.

The Yorkshire Pirlo came in for high praise for his on-pitch performances with his country but it was his reaction to Saka's decisive penalty miss that endeared him into the hearts of supporters, rushing to console his team-mate amid Azzurri celebrations.

"For me as a person, I feel like if anybody feels disappointed or anything, I want them to be able to come and talk to me," Phillips added.

"In the way we lost the final, especially for Bukayo because he is so young, on a big stage, I just felt like I needed to go over and console him.

"I just said 'don't worry about it. I said 'it happens in football.' I said to him, 'lift your head up.'

"Obviously he is going to be upset at that moment but even after the game in the changing room I'm just saying 'listen, that's the way football is and if it was anybody else, we'd all do the same. We all think the world of you right now'."