You must be joking! Kalvin Phillips thought he was being pranked after winning England’s player of the year award following an unforgettable Euro 2020 as Leeds star admits his success with the Three Lions hasn’t sunk in yet
- Kalvin Phillips was named England’s player of the year after superb Euro 2020
- The Leeds United star pipped Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling to the honour
- Phillips thought the award was a prank having only made his debut last year
As years go, Kalvin Phillips’s has been unforgettable. On Monday, the Leeds midfielder was crowned England’s player of the year, pipping Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling, respectively, to the accolade.
He only made his international debut 12 months ago, starting in the 0-0 Nations League draw against Denmark.
Phillips’s England career has accelerated rapidly since that drab night in Copenhagen.
Kalvin Phillips thought someone was playing a prank on him after winning England’s POTY
‘Declan Rice gave me the award, but I actually thought he was playing a joke on me to be fair,’ said Phillips, 25. ‘He walked over with a big smile on his face with something behind his back. I thought he had one of those pies you smash into people’s faces.
‘I remember the debut a year ago and to be honest I was really nervous because it was the first time I’d been anywhere like this.
‘I’d never been to any youth set-ups or anything, I didn’t know anybody.
‘I came to the training ground and was nervous to speak to anyone but I think after a few days after speaking to everyone and the coaching staff it just felt like being at Leeds, being at home. But I’m not just here to be around the place. I’m here to play games and play for my country and I’ll do everything I can to do that.’
The Leeds midfielder enjoyed a superb Euro 2020 campaign as he helped England to the final
Having started the 2020-21 campaign with no Premier League nor international experience, Phillips finds himself as one of 27 players to have played in a major tournament final for England.
It’s certainly a unique club, but not that Phillips sees it that way.
‘You could say that (it’s unique) but I don’t believe so, I’m just a player from Leeds who kicks a football and wants to do his country proud and his family proud.
‘Obviously it is a great honour, I still don’t think it has hit me yet, the highs of doing so well in a tournament. Because it was my first tournament as well, and I feel bad for saying it, but I feel like, “What is this big thing about us not getting to a final?”.
Phillips (L), now preparing for the World Cup qualifiers, says his success has not yet sunk in
‘It is a major honour, I look back on it all the time. I always think about the whole tournament, not just the final and how good it felt to be involved in something like this,’ he said.
Central to England’s run to the final, Phillips is no longer the new boy, a key member of the national team’s present and future.
Hard as nails and bursting with energy in the engine room, Phillips played in all but 25 minutes of England’s Euros campaign.
He was quick to console Bukayo Saka after his penalty miss in the final shootout against Italy
Phillips is no longer the new boy – he is a key member of the team’s present and future
His performances were brilliant, but perhaps the most poignant moment of Phillips’s tournament was him consoling Bukayo Saka after the teenager’s decisive penalty miss in the final. Phillips was the first on the scene as Saka’s world crumbled around him and recalls: ‘For me as a person, I feel like if anybody feels disappointed or anything, I want them to be able to come and talk to me.
‘In the way we lost the final, especially for Bukayo because he is so young, on a big stage, I just felt like I needed to go over and console him.
‘I just said, “Don’t worry, it happens in football”. Obviously he is going to be upset at that moment but even after the game in the changing room, I’m just saying, “Listen, that’s the way football is and if it was anybody else, we’d all do the same. We all think the world of you right now”.’
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