Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips warns over Italy duo with hard work putting him on edge of England greatness

Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips has worked relentlessly for an opportunity with England - now he stands on the verge of Three Lions greatness.

Sunday, 11th July 2021, 6:00 am
Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips salutes the England crowd. Pic: Getty
Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips salutes the England crowd. Pic: Getty

The Whites midfielder has played a pivotal role for his nation at this summer's delayed European Championships.

Gareth Southgate's midfield pairing of Phillips and West Ham's Declan Rice has helped lead England to a first major final for 55 years.

The Yorkshire Pirlo - as he is affectionately known - cemented his legacy at Elland Road by helping his boyhood club back to the Premier League last summer.

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Fast forward 12 months and he has started every one of England's Euros games and is a match away from lifting silverware at international level.

Many others have tried and failed but Phillips and his Three Lions team-mates have shaken off the burden of history to put themselves within reach of glory.

Phillips has largely credited the impact of United head coach Marcelo Bielsa for his rapid on-pitch rise, having gone from a Championship squad player to one of the Premier League's best defensive midfielders.

Off the pitch it is his late Granny Val who helped keep him grounded and the two figures in his life appear to have combined perfectly to lay the foundation for a career at the top.

“I have worked hard enough to be in this position,” Phillips said ahead of tonight's Euros final at Wembley.

“This opportunity wasn’t gifted to me, it was worked for. It’s what I’ve done at club level. I’ve been around unbelievable players for the last five weeks.

“You want to do your bit and my bit is protecting the back four and winning the ball and giving it to the better players. I try to do that as much as possible and I feel like I will run all day for whoever is next to me and put myself about."

Phillips has impressed onlookers this summer with a number of standout performances for England and has taken to international football with little fuss.

“I feel like once you step on the pitch it doesn’t matter who they have played for or how long they have played," Phillips added over his impressive form under Southgate.

"It is just a matter of me beating that person and him knowing that I am good enough to compete against him. I think once the first whistle goes that goes out of the window. You have to do the best for your team. That’s what I try to do.”

It is Roberto Mancini and Italy who stand in the way of immortality for Southgate's squad at Wembley stadium this evening.

Phillips, again, will be the beating heart of England's midfield next to Rice and the Azzurri will offer the two their toughest test of the tournament to date on the grandest stage.

“I have played against Jorginho,” Phillips said.

“An amazing player, especially for Chelsea. A player who is very good on the ball, using his body to get away from people. There are going to be a lot of different challenges that Italy is going to cause us.

“Verratti is an amazing player as well. I have always admired Verratti. With their two midfielders it is as difficult as it gets. We know it is going to be a very tough game. To come up against those two midfielders is going to be the hardest test we’ve had.

“We’ve got to the point where we believe in ourselves. At the start of the tournament, you looked at the teams who were in it and how strong they were and you didn’t know if we could go as far as we have.

“But the guys we have around the training ground, the coaching staff, and the players we have got in the team, just made it feel as though it is one massive team – every game we went into we were confident, every game we didn’t think we were going to lose.”