THREE members of the present Leeds United squad have now played 100 games for the Whites.
Captain Liam Cooper was the first to become a Whites centurion in October’s home loss to Reading and winger Stuart Dallas followed suit with his outing in last month’s 4-1 loss at leaders Wolves.
Full-back Gaetano Berardi was also denied a true 100th game to savour when United were beaten 1-0 at Birmingham City in their final game of 2017 with Berardi donning the captain’s armband.
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips will hope for a different conclusion when his 100th game comes knocking in 22 games’ time.
The midfielder is over three quarters of the way to his milestone but considerably younger than United’s other three club centurions at just 22 years old.
Quick progress from a midfielder who only made his Whites debut in April 2015 with Phillips admitting he is still improving as he aims to take his hometown city to the Premier League.
Phillips made his 78th appearance for Leeds during the New Year’s Day goalless draw with Nottingham Forest at Elland Road.
The Wortley-born footballer was just 19 when making his Whites debut in a 4-3 loss at Wolves on the Easter Monday of 2015 under Neil Redfearn who knew the midfielder well from his progress within United’s Academy.
That progress has continued into United’s first team and even Phillips himself admits he has been pleasantly surprised by the number of appearances he has had so early on his career.
Those outings, says the midfielder, are also only helping him to develop with Phillips saying there is plenty left in his locker as he closes in on a quick milestone for Leeds.
Reflecting on his progress at Elland Road so far, Phillips told the YEP: “I think I am on around the 80-game marker and obviously it will be an honour to pull on the white shirt and get 100 caps for Leeds. It’s always an honour.
“I’m just happy that it’s in my hometown and happy that I can keep on trying to get these caps.
“I believe 2017 was a good year for me, especially the start of the year.
“I didn’t think that I was going to play as much but I started playing a lot more regularly and even at the start at the season and coming towards the end of the year, I believe that I am playing a lot more, I am playing a lot regularly and it’s only helping me get better.”
I believe that I am playing a lot more, I am playing a lot regularly and it’s only helping me get better.Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips
Asked if he felt he was still improving, Phillips reasoned: “I’d like to believe so. I’ve only just turned 22 and I’m still young.
“I am just going to keep on working hard and I don’t really like bigging myself up.
“I’ll just keep getting in positions where I can score goals and make tackles and do what’s best for my team.”
Those goals have become a new addition to the midfielder’s game, even if the then 19-year-old netted in just his second outing for United in the 2-1 loss at home to Cardiff in April 2015.
After failing to score in 10 outings during the following campaign, Phillips bagged his second goal for Leeds last season in the 3-1 victory at home to Nottingham Forest as part of a personally fruitful campaign that featured 40 games.
The Academy graduate then signed a new four-year deal in the summer and the midfielder’s attacking prowess has improved considerably in his fourth season at the Whites with Phillips having already netted five times this season in just 26 games.
While Samuel Saiz looks untouchable in his position, Phillips has also continued to add a new dimension to his game this season in once again being used in the No 10 role.
“Obviously we can rotate the midfield and I’m happy getting forward,” said Phillips.
“I like scoring goals, I like having shots and if the manager asks me to play there then I’m not going to say no.”
It is, though, as a central midfielder in front of United’s back four that Phillips has by and large learned his trade and the 22-year-old is aware that goals are not the only tally on the increase.
Tough-tackling Phillips has already been booked eight times this season and two more yellow cards before the second Sunday in March will result in a two-match ban.
The midfielder is walking a disciplinary tightrope but hopes he can avoid going into double figures before the cut off point. Asked if he could avoid the two-match ban for 10 yellows, Phillips smiled: “Hopefully! I’d like to think so.
“But I love a tackle so hopefully I can keep myself on the ground and not make any silly calls.”
Another 20 league games could yet present themselves for Phillips this term – plus three more if United can seal a place in the top six and go all the way to a Wembley final.
Phillips sees no reason why that objective cannot be achieved.
“I believe we have got a really good squad,” said the midfielder.
“I believe that when we work together as a squad and when the spirit is high, I don’t think there’s many teams that can stop us.
“We are looking to progress and to get higher.”
Having been born in Wortley and having grown up in Leeds, few would take more satisfaction then taking United back to the promised land of the Premier. “Obviously this is my home town,” said Phillips.
“I was born here and I don’t want to be anywhere else.
“I want to get the team back to the Premiership and then we’ll keep working from there.”