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The story behind the meteoric rise of England’s hottest new star Kalvin Phillips is almost fit for a Hollywood movie.
From a tough upbringing – with his father in jail and his mother going hungry to ensure he and his three siblings were fed – the Leeds United midfielder has gone on to steal the show at Wembley Stadium in the Three Lions’ 1-0 Euros win over Croatia on Sunday.
And the 25-year-old, with his distinctive hair plaits and tattoos, owes it all to the women in his life.
Kalvin revealed last year how dad Mark had been “in and out my life since when I was young,” explaining: “He’s been in prison, out of prison. He got into the wrong crowd, drugs, fighting, anything you can name.”
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With partner Ashleigh Behan
England's new star
(Image: UEFA via Getty Images)
This meant hard-working mum Lindsay Crosby and “Grandma Val” were left to support him, his two sisters and little brother.
Ian Thackray, his former manager at Wortley Juniors in Leeds, recalled: “He was always very strong, despite not being the tallest. He is not a nasty person on the pitch but he used to tackle the opposition as if he was trying to kill them.
“He was with his younger brother, Terrell, all the time and Lindsay, would take them everywhere. She was the leader of the family and still is.
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Kalvin with his family
“If somebody clobbered Terrell during a game, Kalvin would be straight in to back him up.”
Ian said Kalvin – who grew up in the Leeds suburb of Armley – would have been “knocked sideways” by the death of Granny Val earlier this year.
Ian, his manager for sevens easons, added: “I don’t think he will have any greater motivation to perform well for England at the Euros.
The young man is now a bonafide England star
(Image: The FA via Getty Images)
“It would be the perfect tribute to her memory and the influence she had on his life.”
His high-energy, tough tackling display inspired Gareth Southgate’s brave young Lions on the pitch – and millions watching back home.
Her doting grandson described how she and his mother would go without food for their family, in a moving interview last year.
Signing up with Grandma, left, and mum
(Image: @kalvinphillips / Instagram)
“We used to live in a three-bed house,” he said. “Me and my brother upstairs in bunk beds, my little sister and older sister in the other bedrooms and my mum used to sleep on the sofa downstairs.
“I used to get free school meals. There have been times where my mum didn’t eat at night because she had to feed us.
“My mum worked two jobs to make enough money. Grandma would chip in for food.”
He admitted kids at his school would ask why he was on free school meals.
His mum had explained to him that they could not afford a packed lunch.
It has left him fiercely loyal towards the women in his life – including his partner Ashleigh Behan.
They met in school 12 years ago, and the 25-year-old says simply: “I don’t want to meet anybody else.”
Kalvin joins Leeds Utd Academy supported by Mum Lindsay and Nanna Val
When Phillips burst forward to lay on the goal for Raheem Sterling, they formed a combination which said much for the new era of altruistic English footballers.
As a child, Sterling used to help his mum with her cleaning chores when they lived a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium.
And England teammate Marcus Rashford’s free school meals crusade is very close to the heart of Phillips – who donates to food banks himself, conscious of the incredible journey he has made.
He had to drive past HM Wealstun, where his dad was doing time, last year on the way to training.
Marcus Rashford sends Kalvin Phillips message after his sensational England display
England 1-0 Croatia player ratings: Kalvin Phillips stars as Three Lions make winning start
“He rang me a couple of weeks after we’d been promoted, and said, ‘Listen to this’,” Phillips told the Times.
“All the people who were waiting for a phone call in prison were there, all singing Marching on Together, banging on the walls.”
Leeds’ eccentric manager Marcelo Bielsa likes his team to take part in “no-holds-barred” games of “Murderball” – during which he screams at players to keep the ball on mini-pitches, non-stop for 15 minutes.
With brother and their grandad
The Argentine has helped Southgate’s latest young star, who had not played for England 12 months ago. And it is to the benefit of the national side.
The England boss purred: “All those attributes were there – the range of passing, the athleticism, the desire.
"For us, he’s just a very good footballer. High performance, low maintenance – we like that a lot.”
The format of the competition, with four of the six third-placed teams reaching the knockout stages, means a win has already put England in a strong position to progress.
They still have arch rivals Scotland to play on Friday, beaten 2-0 by Czech Republic yesterday
Phillips will line up again and according to his old manager Ian Thackray, he will never ‘forget his roots’.