Kalvin Phillips: Leeds United man dreaming of club's Premier League return

Kalvin Phillips
Kalvin Phillips, who has made 19 appearances for Leeds this season, receives his award from head coach Garry Monk

It might seem inconceivable to some, but it is 12 years since Leeds United were relegated from the Premier League.

They have flirted with disaster more times than they would care to mention in their years outside the top flight.

Owners and managers have come and gone at an, at times, alarming rate, while a return to English football's elite has rarely looked on the cards.

However, there is a feeling that maybe it could be about to change.

Under head coach Garry Monk, United have turned around a slow start to the season and are seventh in the Championship after 17 games.

Craving a return to the Premier League as much as Leeds' fans is midfielder Kalvin Phillips, the winner of the EFL Young Player of the Month award for October.

The 20-year-old was only eight years old when Leeds were relegated from the Premier League, and knows better than most what promotion would mean.

"I went to Elland Road for the first time when I was nine years old. I was sat in the top tier and the atmosphere was mad, I just remember thinking 'imagine if I was out there'," he told BBC Sport.

"Making my home debut was a really special day for me and my family, and to score a goal is something that'll always be in my heart. When I walked out for the game I thought it was mental."

He added: "It would be a dream come true for me to be in the Premier League with this team.

"When I was younger, Leeds were in the Premier League and you could see what it meant to the fans. It hasn't really happened these last few years but if we could do it this season it would be fantastic."

Kalvin Phillips
Phillips scored just 17 minutes into his home debut in a 2-1 defeat by Cardiff in April 2015

Phillips might have grand ambitions, but to say he is grounded would be something of an understatement.

He still lives at home with his parents, four miles from Elland Road, and credits his team-mates and coaches for his recent stellar performances.

The common bond

Phillips is part of the latest crop of players from the Leeds academy to be turning out for the first team.

Full-backs Charlie Taylor, 23, and Lewie Coyle, 21, and midfielders Alex Mowatt, 21, and Ronaldo Vieira, 18, [Vieira's younger brother Romario is also in the club's academy] have all featured regularly this season.

"It's good to play with them and I've got a lot of trust in them because we grew up together," he said.

"It's a bit weird because a lot of teams are more experienced than us but we've got no fear. We just play our football. Hopefully we can bring more young players through."

It could perhaps have been a little different for the combative midfielder.

Phillips played the majority of his youth team football for Wortley Juniors before being invited for a trial at Leeds when he was 14.

Despite it taking a little longer than some to get spotted, Phillips always backed himself, although he did inadvertently give the Whites false hope about what kind of player they were getting.

"I just enjoyed myself when I was playing and it got to the point that people started approaching me and I knew there was a good chance somebody would pick me up," he said.

"I eventually came here on a six-week trial and scored four goals in my first three games and got signed. I didn't score for the rest of the season after that!"

Ronaldo Vieira
Phillips celebrates with Ronaldo Vieira (left) after the teenager's late winner against Norwich

'The difference is crazy'

It is a sign of the times that Phillips has now played under four different managers at Elland Road.

He made his goalscoring debut against Cardiff under Neil Redfearn in April 2015 before starting three of Uwe Rosler's 12 matches in charge last season.

Steve Evans used the youngster more sparingly in his time at Elland Road, restricting him to just seven substitute appearances.

After starting this season on the bench, he has been ever-present in the past nine games, helping his side pick up 16 points.

Monk found himself answering questions about his future after September's defeat by rivals Huddersfield, which saw them slip into the Championship's bottom three after six games.

Italian owner Massimo Cellino is not known for his patience but it seems that on this occasion he realised that time was what was needed.

"Garry has added understanding and awareness to my game and helped me understand the position more," Phillips said.

"It's crazy how things are right now. I go on social media and it's just incredible seeing how buzzing all the fans are about us being up near the top six.

"We'd had a couple of new players come in at the start of the season and a few of us younger guys had never really played in the first team but the team's so together now.

"There's a massive buzz around the club and in the changing room because we're up where we should be."

Previous winners

Port Vale defender Nathan Smith won August's EFL Young Player of the Month award, while Bristol City striker Tammy Abraham collected the prize in September.

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