England manager Gareth Southgate was keeping tabs on Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips for two years before giving handing him his first international call-up, according to Phil Hay.
The 24-year-old will be part of the Three Lions’ contingent that is set to face Iceland and Denmark this month.
His inclusion in the squad drew criticism from talkSPORT pundit Jermaine Pennant, who argued that Phillips should be omitted on the basis of him having never played in the Premier League.
But Hay has emphasised just how meticulous Southgate’s research into the player has been in the period preceding his call-up.
Speaking in the Ornstein and Chapman Podcast for The Athletic, he said: “I know there’s been a bit of griping about his [Phillips’] inclusion in the England squad because he hasn’t played in the Premier League.
“It’s worth saying that Southgate’s been watching him for about two years.
“There’s been a lot of examination done in that period.
“His development and his growth under Bielsa has been pretty astonishing.”
The most interesting thing about Hay’s comments is the period of time that Southgate has been interested in Phillips.
Prior to Marcel Bielsa’s arrival at Leeds, the 24-year-old was a fairly standard, box-to-box midfielder.
It was only really when the Argentine took over that we began to see Phillips truly excel in the deeper role that that he occupies now.
But Bielsa has only been at Leeds for two seasons, and therefore, that must mean that Southgate started keeping tabs on the midfielder almost as soon as the South American moved into the dugout at Elland Road.
If that’s not a surefire sign of the transformative effect that Bielsa has had in Yorkshire, we don’t know what is.
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