Soccer

Kalvin Phillips is owed an apology – our questions of him have been proven naive

Kalvin Phillips is owed an apology.

From all those on social media who have criticised him, from some of the pundits who have questioned him and, last but not least, yours truly for judging him too soon.

In these column inches back in September he was derided as an international midfielder. Deemed not good enough at this level.

That was following his England debut in Copenhagen, when those unfortunate to have witnessed the goalless draw with Denmark were left in need of one of those lagers the place is famous for.

But fast forward almost seven months and Phillips has adapted to the demands of the biggest stage so well that he is now certain to be included in Gareth Southgate's 23-man squad for this summer's Euros.

Perhaps it was naive to question someone who has overcome so much adversity and hardship in his life to get this far?

After all, this is a man whose sister died when she was a few months old, whose mum went starving so she could feed him and his siblings and someone whose dad, Mark, is locked up inside Wealstun Prison, just a stone's throw from Leeds United's Thorp Arch training ground.

You get the feeling Phillips appreciates not just how far he's come, but how far he still wants to go.

As the Euros approach all the talk is of the thrilling attacking talent Southgate has at his disposal, how good Mason Mount and Phil Foden are, how Harry Kane remains world class and if England will operate with a back three or four?

But slap bang in the middle Phillips has emerged as a crucial cog in the wheel, someone consistently consistent who does the simple things well without making – or wanting – the headlines.

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  • He wins the ball and cherishes it. He breaks up play and tidies up the mess others leave behind.

    All the top teams need steel as well as stardust and alongside Declan Rice, Phillips has made sure we haven't missed Jordan Henderson.

    Phillips, who has started all three qualifiers, might just be keeping the seat warm for the Liverpool captain, who knows?

    But should Henderson fail to prove his fitness come June, then Phillips is now the reason Southgate has no need to panic, because he has someone else who can step into the engine room.

    A Leeds star of the past once made an infamous mistake against Poland at Wembley that cost his country dear, when the late Norman Hunter's blunder in 1973 saw England fail to make the next World Cup.

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    But there was no chance of Phillips slipping up last night. His mistakes have become collectors' items, while he took the ball off the Polish like some sort of bully in the playground.

    For someone who likes to go unnoticed, he's doing himself few favours.

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