Higginbotham: Leeds star could be answer to England Euro 2020 problem
Pundit Danny Higginbotham has said that Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips could be the ‘shock’ answer for England’s midfield problems.
England beat Kosovo 4-0 on Sunday and qualified for the Euro 2020 finals easily, topping their group by six points and ending with a goal difference of +31.
There’s growing optimism that England can do something next year but there is still a question over the holding midfield role.
Higginbotham says both Harry Winks and Declan Rice have been tried there but says the position is still up for grabs.
And he thinks Phillips could be the answer.
Writing in his column in the Sun, Higginbotham said, “Looking outside the current squad, there are not exactly many English defensive midfielders excelling in the Premier League.
“But in Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips I see someone who could force his way into Southgate’s reckoning.
“The 23-year-old has been outstanding for Marcelo Bielsa’s side and has a number of really good attributes. I like his positional sense, he’s a very good tackler, and his distribution both long and short is fantastic.”
However, not everyone agrees.
Talking on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast show on talkSPORT on Monday, Danny Mills, discussing Higginbotham’s column, said he thought the step-up would be too much for Phillips.
“I think he’s a fabulous player,” said Mills, “but the step up to the Premier League is huge, the step up to international football is absolutely massive, and I just think it’s too much to take someone from the Championship, to suddenly drop them in and expect them to be fabulous week in, week out.
“It’s not just ability but it’s the mental pressure as well. I watch him regularly, he’s a fantastic player, he is an out-and-out holding midfield player which is in his favour. But is he better than Declan Rice? I think people underestimate the step up, even from the Premier League to step up into internationals is huge.”
It’s a fair point. Phillips hasn’t played above Championship level yet and hasn’t played for England’s youth sides. That he’s being discussed for the senior England side shows how far he’s come under Marcelo Bielsa.
Euro 2020 will likely come too soon for him. Does he deserve a place on his performances? Probably, and we’d love to see him called up to the squad even just for the experience and to get a taste of what it’s like.
More likely, though, Phillips is one for the future. We think he plays in the Premier League next season whatever happens, but hopefully with Leeds.
Once he’s playing there, if he can maintain his level of performance, a call-up for England will almost definitely follow.
In other Leeds United news, ‘They’ve got to leave him at Leeds’ – Barry Fry delivers verdict on Ben White future