Paul Heckingbottom explains the confidence issue Kalvin Phillips faced upon his Leeds United arrival

The former Whites head coach has had his say on the midfielder.
Former Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom. (Bruce Rollinson)Former Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom. (Bruce Rollinson)
Former Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom. (Bruce Rollinson)

Paul Heckingbottom believes midfielder Kalvin Phillips needed his confidence back when he arrived at Elland Road over two years ago.

The 42-year-old was appointed as Leeds United's head coach in February 2018 but was sacked in the summer after just four months in charge in LS11.

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Heckingbottom made the move from Yorkshire neighbours Barnsley as he put pen to paper on an 18-month deal with the Whites.

He arrived with the ambition of helping the club into the play-off places after a decline in results under former boss Thomas Christiansen led to the Dane's sacking.

United, though, suffered on the pitch and ended the campaign in 13th position as Leeds fell away in the second half of the campaign.

One player who has gone from strength to strength since Heckingbottom's time at the club is Thorp Arch academy product Phillips.

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The 24-year-old was handed a clear and decisive role under Marcelo Bielsa - Heckingbottom's succesor - after his arrival in West Yorkshire and the former Tykes boss believes it was a confidence issue upon his appointment.

“When I first went to Leeds, it was the first time him [Phillips] and Ronaldo Vieira were getting a bit of stick from the home fans," he told the Guardian.

"Usually, as a homegrown lad, and a Leeds fan, you get spared of that. But they had been coming under a bit of a fire and it was a case of getting their confidence back.

“They were fantastic players with great ability but you have to step out of the shadows and not be that young lad with great potential – you have to go and run the team.

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"Ronaldo got a good move to Sampdoria and Kalvin has shown what a brilliant player he is.”

Asked about his short stint in the Elland Road hot seat, he said: "People said to me Leeds were in a bad place and that it was a basket case of a club, but it wasn’t – it was really close-knit.

“There were a lot of good players, but there was also a lot of deadwood and it needed a real shakeup.

"It doesn’t matter how good a coach or player you think you are, if the environment is not right, it will drag you down. It was more important to get rid of people than it was to bring people in.”