With Kalvin Phillips playing so well in an England shirt it’s easy to look at his situation and attribute it to faith in Leeds United. After all, he did have clubs like Aston Villa trying to purchase him after our playoff defeat against Derby – but he decided to stay at his hometown club and push for promotion. In that sense – his loyalty is absolutely worth celebrating.
But I’ve seen Tweets this morning that attempt to draw comparisons to players like Charlie Taylor, Sam Byram and Lewis Cook – suggesting that their lack of loyalty is why they aren’t wearing the England shirt that Kalvin is now proudly donning. There’s so much wrong with that statement that it’s difficult to know where to even begin.
This isn’t about loyalty. Before Bielsa came to Leeds a vast majority of fans were ready to see Phillips “moved on” having had ample opportunity to impress, but failing to do so. It wasn’t just him either. You look at the squad that Heckingbottom finished 13th with and it’s full of players who (at the time) fans were suggesting couldn’t be improved. Stuart Dallas couldn’t get into the side. Liam Cooper couldn’t shake the “League One Liam” nickname. Fans weren’t sure what Alisoki was for. Berardi was a “liability”.
At that moment in time, people would have sold Phillips to keep Vieira. Aside from Pontus, Pablo and Roofe, the majority of the squad weren’t considered “good enough” to get us out of the Championship.
I know it’s difficult for us to reflect on, but that’s how it was. Radrizzani and Orta brought Bielsa to Leeds and that’s what transformed our fortunes. Kalvin started to be developed by one of the world’s finest coaches and improved as a result. Everyone did. Every single player at Leeds became better as a result of Bielsa’s arrival. Had Bielsa not come to Leeds and we have appointed another no-name, you can guarantee that we aren’t talking about Phillips in an England shirt.
And that’s why it’s insane to draw comparisons to Byram/Taylor/Cook and use the word “loyalty”. All 3 moved to the Premier League and two of them were practically hounded out by our owner, turning fans against them for not accepting inadequate contract extensions. Playing careers are short and Leeds (at that time) were going absolutely nowhere. Leeds United under Massimo Cellino had a 0% chance of getting promoted. It was too disorganised, too chaotic. Players had to buy their own socks and organise their own food. You cannot find a single successful club that was ran the way we were under his stewardship. Loyalty would have meant those players languished in a mid-table Championship side on less money than they deserved. Or the owner would have purchased a replacement for them from an agent he had some fondness for, turned the fans against them in the process and you’d have cheered that they signed for Rotherham. “No player is bigger than the club” you’d have said.
I’m delighted that Kalvin has become the player he has. But don’t pretend that it’s because of loyalty. Marcelo Bielsa (apparently) said when he joined that he’d turn Kalvin into one of the best players in the Championship and he did. It wasn’t anything to do with staying at Leeds when others left. It was entirely to do with being at Leeds at the same time as Marcelo Bielsa.
I’m not posting this to shame anyone – this is just a good example of how we all felt when that season ended. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
If you genuinely believe "Hecky" is going to lead #LUFC to the promised land when he can't even figure out how shit O'Kane, Phillips and Wiedwald are after seeing nothing but terrible performances from them since he arrived, you need to lay off the crack pipe.
— The Scratching Shed 🏆 (@TSSLUFC) March 2, 2018