Noel Whelan has told BBC Radio Leeds (broadcast on 15/2; 17:07) that Kalvin Phillips’s development has been unreal after the Leeds United midfielder produced an outstanding display in the Whites’ 1-0 win over Bristol City on Saturday.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side could have hardly asked for more from the weekend. Luke Ayling’s goal ensured that they were the only team in the Championship’s top eight to win. And that has left the club three points clear of the chasing pack in the promotion race.
It was a narrow scoreline. But, once again, Leeds had the chances to put the game to bed long before the full-time whistle. The home side were superb at Elland Road, and picking a man of the match may have been a tough task for some.
But the player who arguably staked the biggest claim for that honour was Phillips.
The 24-year-old was superb in the middle of the park. He read the game brilliantly. Whoscored.com shows that he won two of the three challenges he attempted, and no player completed more key passes than Phillips.
And Whelan insisted that the academy graduate deserves all of the plaudits coming his way after a performance which typified his importance to the team since Bielsa’s arrival.
“He anticipates the ball coming through. He works along that line tirelessly, putting challenges in, breaking up attacks. And he just went all the way to the end today,” he told BBC Radio Leeds. “The last minute, the last seconds, he’s driving through with that ball, taking the ball from his own half into theirs. He’s such a massive part of this side.
“When you’ve got somebody with that sort of body strength, and you trust your body to be able to hold people off, and move the ball to the side and keep it safe, he’s such a clever player. His progression has been unreal.”
Phillips appears to have returned from suspension feeling that he has a real point to prove.
While many sympathised with his frustrations against Queens Park Rangers, the red card seemed to be a really costly error. And the Whites lost two games without him.
But Phillips has potentially been man of the match in Leeds’s last two games. And given that he seemed to be somewhat off the boil before his red card, perhaps that moment of madness may be looked back upon as a massive turning point.