Leeds star Kalvin Phillips makes classy Marcelo Bielsa admission over England Euros hopes
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Seven caps into his England career and Kalvin Phillips admits he still has to pinch himself at times. But after being singled out for praise by Gareth Southgate following England’s 2-1 win World Cup qualifier win against Poland on Wednesday night, it is looking increasingly likely he could be on the verge of one or two more this summer.
“Don’t get me wrong, the nerves are still there,” the 25-year-old Leeds United midfielder said. “Whenever I am called up or starting for England, the nerves are still there.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make it feel real. I’m very happy with how the last few weeks have gone. Hopefully I can keep pushing on to get more games.
“From the first minute I stepped into the camp, everyone made me feel very welcome. Obviously there are going to be nerves when I first came. I never really knew anyone.
“These were players who were playing for big clubs in the Premier League. I just got my head down, worked hard. Throughout time, I have got more confident.”
You suspect that is not such a problem for a player who never got the call for England representative sides at a younger level and even three years ago was just an ordinary player in the Championship.
“The last World Cup I’d just moved into my first house without my mum there and I had a few of my mates around every game to watch the games,” Phillips recalled.
“It was just one of them things – it was in the summer, it was warm, you just love watching international football.
“To be here playing and to have my friends and family messaging me saying ‘I can’t believe you’re playing for England and doing all this stuff’ it’s surreal.
“Like I said before, I feel like I have to pinch myself sometimes. But it’s one of those things you’ve got to keep working hard and I’ll keep doing that.”
Marcelo Bielsa, Phillips’ Leeds manager, is the one credited with the turnaround, having turned him into a more defensive-minded midfielder.
“The manner in which we play at club level – we’ve got a lot of confidence there,” Phillips explained.
“I feel like I’m a player who is very confident with the ball at my feet, playing football and passing it around.
“I’m very comfortable when I am playing anywhere. I’m a versatile midfield player. I can play all around the pitch. I am confident and Gareth sees that.
“I was surprised to play in the No 8 position and I am coming to take every chance that comes.
“If he wants me to play right-back or left-back, I’ll do it. I’ll take it with everything I have got.
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“I’m happy just to be playing for England, never mind if I was sat on the bench. I’d be happy as well.
“I want to be playing games and Gareth’s seen that and has seen that I’m capable of playing in different positions in midfield, which is a good thing as well. I’m looking forward to the next camp.”
That next camp, of course, is the one building up to the Euro 2020 finals. What if the next telephone call from Southgate is not the one Phillips wants?
He adds: “I don’t really think that way. I am not negative. What will be, will happen.
“If I don’t get a call-up, I will just keep working hard and hopefully get called up for the next one. And if I do get called up? Buzzing!”
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