Kalvin Phillips has told Leeds That’s podcast that he was gutted for Pascal Struijk when he was taken off during the early stages of Leeds United’s clash with Aston Villa last week, but backed the youngster to bounce back.
Struijk was given the unenviable task of replacing Phillips on Friday after the England international sustained an injury in the previous game.
The Dutchman has stepped up in the role previously. But with Villa boasting a flawless record leading into the game, he would have been forgiven for feeling that he would need to produce his biggest performance yet.
Unfortunately for Struijk, the evening did not exactly go to plan. He was booked in the early stages. And after committing another foul shortly after, Marcelo Bielsa decided to take him off after just 21 minutes.
Ultimately, it proved to be the right decision. Leeds went on to secure a 3-0 win and Struijk looks set to be available for the next game – which may not have been the case had he been left on.
Few know what Struijk would have been feeling when he was taken off better than Phillips. He, of course, was in a similar situation during the early stages of Bielsa’s tenure when Leeds faced Swansea.
And he admitted that he has sympathy for his teammate. But he also insisted that Struijk will prove a point.
“I was a bit gutted for Pascal because I’ve been in those situations before,” he told Leeds That. “It’s not easy being brought off after 20 minutes. But he’s a great player. Obviously he’ll take it on the chin and focus on playing the next game.”
As a holding midfielder, Struijk could have no better role model than Phillips. Few would have anticipated that Phillips would become one of the country’s best midfielders before Bielsa’s arrival.
Similarly, few would have backed Struijk to play in the same position before Bielsa gave him a chance last season.
And it is perhaps because of Phillips’s progress that the large majority of Leeds fans seem to be confident that Struijk will immediately bounce back from Friday’s setback.