Northern Ireland hero Stuart Dallas has thrown his support behind England in the Euro 2020 tournament and the performances of Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.
The midfielder had an excellent debut campaign in the Premier League, but he has really announced himself to the world stage during this summer’s European Championship.
Phillips has featured in every one of England’s matches on the way to tomorrow’s final against Italy, playing all but 25 of the available 570 minutes.
The man affectionately known as the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ has covered more ground (67.3km) and won more tackles (eight) than any of his international team-mates, while only Kyle Walker (37) and John Stones (26) have completed more ball recoveries than him (25) in the squad.
Pundits including Mesut Ozil, Michael Ballack, Rio Ferdinand and Fabio Capello have heaped praise on Phillips.
His Leeds team-mate Dallas says his pal’s international success is a fitting reward for his ability and attitude.
“It’s giving me goosebumps when you mention his name, I’m absolutely delighted for him,” said the former Crusaders player, who has watched the 25-year-old shine in the tournament.
“Nobody deserves it more than him. You can talk about my journey but when you look at his, where he’s come from, it’s incredible. He deserves everything that comes his way. We’re proud of him here as team-mates, as a club we’re proud of him and he should be proud of himself and his family. I wish him well.
“Obviously I’m from Northern Ireland and I think I got a bit of stick on Twitter when I said I wanted England to win it but of course I do. I’ve got a good connection here in England, my kids were born here, they’re Northern Irish but born in England. I’d be delighted for him.
“He’s been outstanding and I didn’t really expect any different because he’s that type of lad.”
Top clubs including Liverpool are reportedly tracking Phillips’ progress but Leeds will want to retain one of their sublime talents.
Meanwhile, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin would not support holding the Euros across the continent again, saying: “It is not fair to the fans.”
The idea to stage what should have been the 60th anniversary finals all over Europe is credited to Ceferin’s predecessor Michel Platini, with the decision confirmed in December 2012.
Even without the added logistical and public health difficulties associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament would have been a tough ask for fans and players alike, and Ceferin is clearly not keen on a repeat.
“I would not support it any more,” he said.
“I think it’s too challenging. It’s in a way not correct that some teams have to travel more than 10,000km and the others 1,000km for example.
“It’s not fair to the fans. Some fans had to be in Rome and the next day or in a couple of days they had to be in Baku, a four-and-a-half-hour flight.
“So it’s a difficult one, it’s an interesting idea but hard to implement and I don’t think we will do it again.”
The 2024 Euros will be held in Germany.