Nigel Martyn has told LeedsUnited.News that he believes Gareth Southgate will combine Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson with West Ham United’s Declan Rice in midfield if he has the choice of both players – and Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips. But Martyn is also of the opinion that Phillips will play at this summer’s tournament, and that he offers more physical capabilities than Champions League winner Henderson.
Phillips, 25, has been in sensational form for Leeds this season – breaking into the England side. During the last international break, the Thorp Arch academy graduate started all three matches for England against San Marino, Albania and Poland. However, Phillips did not have to contend with Liverpool’s Henderson – who is currently sidelined through injury.
Despite a grueling three starts in six days for England, Phillips then returned to Leeds and played the entire 90 minutes against Sheffield United on Saturday – helping Leeds win 2-1. Martyn says he spoke to England boss Southgate during the 1-0 over Everton at Goodison Park earlier in the season about Phillips – and Southgate told him he is a fan of the Leeds ace.
“I know Gareth likes Phillips, I spoke to Gareth after Leeds played Everton at Goodison. Kalvin was the best player on the pitch by a mile that day, but he really stood out and Gareth likes him a lot because of what he gives. He is not over fussy, he gives a good range of passing but he can close down and tackle – he is not afraid to do all that,” Martyn told LeedsUnited.News.
England take on Croatia on June 13 in their first group game of Euro 2020, before facing Scotland and the Czech Republic with a place in the quarter-finals of the tournament up for grabs. England will be fancying their chances after a decent draw, but Martyn believes Phillips will not be in the starting line-up in two months time, if Southgate has his way.
He believes that Henderson offers more experience and tournament know how, while Rice also starts over Phillips. However, Martyn does believe Phillips will be in the squad and that he will feature – stating he is above Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse in the midfield pecking order. If Henderson is to start, though, Martyn says Henderson will have to have recovered from injury and be performing well for Liverpool beforehand.
“Yes, I think he [Phillips] is definitely in the squad. In the starting line-up, he does like two defensive midfielders – he likes Kalvin and Rice. They both disrupt and win the ball back, and have good distribution – short and long it is excellent. I can understand for game management why we would go for the experienced Henderson, but for physical amount of running and everything else – and that Phillips is a stand-out player for Leeds.
“I think Phillips is ahead of Ward-Prowse,” Martyn added. “It depends whether Henderson can bounce back after his injury. He has been out for quite a few weeks. These guys have to come back in and play well to even be pushing. I think Phillips is certainly going to be in the squad but I think Gareth might go with Henderson’s experience, but that’s a tough call. Rice, if he’s fit, plays ahead of Kalvin.”
Martyn’s comments come off the back of Gary Neville telling Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football that Phillips would start in holding midfield alongside Rice against Croatia – while Jamie Carragher would start Henderson with Rice and Mason Mount. Time will tell, but as long as Phillips continues to shine, he will be in with a shout.