Kalvin Phillips admits it is “frustrating” to have had a bit-part role in England’s quest for World Cup glory having been so pivotal to the team in their run to the Euro 2020 final.
The 27-year-old midfielder started every game last summer as Gareth Southgate’s men were beaten on penalties by Italy at Wembley.
He then joined reigning Premier League champions Manchester City from Leeds before the start of the current season but his game-time has been severely limited due to injury.
Phillips has played just one minute of league football for City and underwent shoulder surgery in September – putting his World Cup dreams in doubt.
He returned to action just days before Southgate announced his 26-man squad for Qatar and made the cut, but has so far been limited to 40 minutes across two substitute appearances.
“I’m still enjoying it and having loads of fun,” he said.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard and make sure I get fitter and fitter throughout the weeks I’ve been training, and when I come on try and make that impact or try and be as solid as I possibly can to help the team.
“But, in regards to playing in the Euros, it’s a little bit frustrating knowing that I’ve not played as many minutes but I just remind myself I’ve come very far to be in this position after the operation and I’m still trying to build up my fitness even now and, obviously, when given a chance I can build on that as well.
“The lads have been great with me – you do get frustrated but you have got to look at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is how the team progresses and how you can play that little role in the team every single day and I’m prepared to do that.”
The form of the three men operating in midfield for Southgate – Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice – has helped England reach a quarter-final showdown with France at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday night.
Phillips believes facing the reigning world champions is a “massive game” and is ready to play his part – even if he does not end up featuring.
“Every player in this situation is going to want to be on the pitch and play,” he said.
“If you’re not, you just do your best to support the boys and when you are involved, hopefully you can play well. I’m just looking forwards to the atmosphere and occasion, as well.
“I’m not playing as much, which can be frustrating but when you look at the players that are playing in front of me and how well they are playing, I can’t really argue.”
Phillips revealed that in a meeting before the finals, England had held a half-hour long meeting where they discussed the approach of France, as well as other international teams and club sides who have won trophies recently.
“It was a 25-30 minute meeting that we went through about our identity, how we wanted to play and how we wanted to progress in the tournament,” he said.
“We have hit those marks and we are doing really well at the moment. Hopefully we can keep it going.
“We just spoke about every team that has won a major tournament in the last 10 or so years – how good their defensive record has been and how clinical they have been at the other end of the pitch.
“I think we went through so many different teams, even club teams, the average number of goals they have conceded in a season or a tournament and we want to better that.
“If we can get along those numbers there’s no reason why we can’t go all the way and eventually win the World Cup.
“We have spoken about it as a team and we all know that conceding goals isn’t what we want to do and I think so far we have kept goals out very well, kept clean sheets and scored a lot of goals as well.
“With the front players that we have, we have got unbelievable talent who can score goals in any moment so we are very confident in ourselves.”
In the build up to Saturday’s huge game, the England squad let themselves be entertained by Robbie Williams at their Al Wakrah Beach hotel.
The former Take That singer performed in Doha on Thursday evening but 24 hours earlier had been serenading the World Cup hopefuls – although Phillips was keeping quiet on which of the players decided to join Williams in action.
“Robbie was here with us last night (Wednesday),” said Phillips.
“He was just by the pool and sang us a few songs. It was a really good night. We had the chance to chat to him. He’s an unbelievably talented person but also a really nice person. “He got along with everyone. It was a pleasure to have him. Knowing how big he is in the world and how well he is doing, it’s an honour to have met him and spoken to him.
“There were a couple of duets but I’m not going to name names. They were very good duets to be fair. It was a good night in general. We said farewell to Tony (Conniford, FA head of security) , who is leaving us after nine years. That was quite emotional as well.”
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