From Ed Sheeran to playing for England, Kalvin Phillips just loves being a fan

Jordan Henderson is expecting Kalvin Phillips to play a big role in England’s European Championship last-16 tie against Germany on Tuesday and hopefully more matches to come, but at St George’s Park, the Leeds United midfielder has just been a fan at heart and always wants to stay that way.

Tuesday was a case in point, Phillips watching the games which decided England’s next opponents less with the analytical eye of a professional scouting his next job, more the excitement of a supporter watching some thrilling football. Before that, the 25-year-old was left “starstruck” by a surprise performance at England’s training camp by singer Ed Sheeran

But perhaps football fan Sheeran should have been feeling the same about being in the same room as Phillips, a player whose stock has rocketed nationally with his performances in his first three matches of his first international tournament.

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“I feel like I’m still a fan, wanting to know who we’re playing next,” said Phillips, after he and the squad watched Germany’s 2-2 draw with Hungary, flicking over from time to time to catch up on France versus Portugal.

England's Jordan Henderson. Picture: PA
England's Jordan Henderson. Picture: PA

“I’m still excited to see who we’re playing. It’s a different situation now that I’m actually playing for England but I don’t let that get to me. I just want to do my best for England and enjoy myself as much as possible.”

Germany’s dramatic draw means it will be they England face at Wembley on Tuesday after a see-saw 90 minutes which saw the Three Lions’ prospective opposition constantly changing.

Unlike in many aspects of life, arrogance can be a good quality in professional sports people, but it is one Phillips struggles with.

“Harry Kane sorted it out for him (Sheeran) to come in and have a little sing-song while we were having food,” he said. “He did start playing (England anthem Three Lions).

“I was just sat there looking at him like ‘Oh my God, Ed Sheeran’s right in front of me!’

“I always get starstruck with famous people. Even the first time I came here I was a little bit starstruck to be honest.”

Despite that, vice-captain Henderson says Phillips is a good presence around the camp and particularly on the field. Phillips played the first two-and-a-half games in the box-to-box No 8 position which is Henderson’s best before the pair played together in the second half against the Czech Republic.

Phillips’s passing offers something extra in the holding midfield role to Declan Rice for a team which has been defensively rock solid but not as creative as many would like in their opening three games.

Scrupulously avoiding taking sides, Henderson is a big Phillips fan.

“Kalvin’s a very good player, you’ve seen that in the games he’s played not only for Leeds but for England,” said the Liverpool captain.

“He’s done fantastically well and he’s a brilliant lad to have around.

“He’s been a big player for us but we’ve got a lot of good players in midfield – Dec, who’s been brilliant, Jude (Bellingham), who’s a fantastic talent who’s done brilliantly this season and when he’s come on, Mason (Mount), so we keep pushing each other every day in training but we also get on really well off the field.

“Kalvin’s been a big part of that and he will be in the next game and throughout the tournament.”

Whichever central midfield role he plays, Phillips knows his primary job is keeping the door shut, and England and Italy are the only teams yet to concede in the tournament.

“I just try and leave everything out on the pitch, I’m a very physical player, I try to get around the pitch and win as many balls back for the team,” says Phillips, who usually anchors Leeds’s midfield. “With the attacking players my job’s not really to attack, it’s more to give them the ingredients to go and express themselves.

“If I do my job there’s no reason why they shouldn’t (score goals). We’ve got some brilliant attackers. I see two hours of them every single day, I can tell you they’re very confident and just waiting for the chance to get their name out there.

“More things I do will be defensive than attacking. In the Croatia game I got an assist so everyone is thinking I’m going to be a No 8, getting assists every game, but that’s not really what I do.

“I’m winning the ball back and giving the ball to the better players. I don’t really feel defensive but the way the manager sets up, he wants the two holding midfielders to protect the back four and with not conceding a goal it shows how well we are doing.”