Sky Sports pundit Danny Mills is hesitant over England boss Gareth Southgate awarding Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips a move into senior international football ahead of this summer’s European Championship.
Phillips has been tipped to potentially earn his first international cap in the Three Lions’ friendlies with Denmark and Italy later this month, and possibly result in the Leeds-born star securing a seat on Southgate’s plane for Euro 2020.
Southgate has watched Phillips in action under Marcelo Bielsa this term, trying to gain a greater understanding of what the 24-year-old has in his locker without ever playing a second in the Premier League, and whether what he has is enough for him to move ahead of the hordes of top-flight regulars already being overlooked.
Southgate was hesitant to name Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish in any of his squads whilst the Birmingham-based outfit were in the Championship, noting that the midfielder simply had to be in the Premier League otherwise he would not be considered.
Grealish had at least featured for the Three Lions U21s alongside some now in the senior fold, and Mills is adamant that without those connections now is not the right time for Southgate to introduce Phillips to the international scene.
“He is by far the best player in the Championship but it is not always about ability,” Mills told Football Insider. “It is about mentality.
Would Phillips be mentally ready for England duty?
“How does he feel when he walks into that situation when he is playing with players that he has never played with, or against? Mentally, that can be very difficult – to make that step up. You feel very lonely.
“He will not know too many people in that squad and you need people around you when you first go in there, and I do not care how good you are or what club you are at, when you first walk in it is nerve-racking as hell.
“If you go to the Euros there is all the press attention on you – how does he deal with that? To throw him in at the last minute would be a big gamble.”
Phillips, for his part, has not been allowing the murmurs of a potential England cap to distract him from the club’s title bid, even when most corners of Elland Road are calling for Southgate to call him up.
“I don’t really think of ‘owt’ like that,” Phillips said on the Sky Sports EFL podcast earlier in the year, via quotes by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Obviously I watch England all the time and I put myself in that situation where I think I could play in the England set-up. With great work you get the reward of playing for England. I know I’ve got to keep playing the way I am and one day, hopefully I can play for England.
“I’ve got a lot of Leeds fans tweeting me, asking when I’m going to play for England. I take it as a pat on the back, a compliment, it fuels me to try even harder.”