Micah Richards questioned on the Monday Night Club why Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips earned an England call before playing a Premier League game because Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish has had to ‘prove himself more than anybody’ to earn that very same shot.
When Leeds were promoted to England’s top-flight, Phillips earned an England call, with Gareth Southgate, at the time, opting against handing Villa’s boyhood fan a chance to represent his country before an injury to Raheem Sterling opened that door for him.
That was only a couple of months ago, and during that period, it seems as though Grealish has won over a lot of people, including his previously reluctant national coach.
Richards, who played with Grealish at Villa, issued this response when New York Times journalist, Rory Smith, claimed that the playmaker has had to prove himself to earn that England start.
“I take your point but Kalvin Phillips, how many Premier League games did he play before getting called up to the England squad?” Richards questioned.
On not accepting a Championship player (when Grealish was playing there) to start regularly for England: “I totally take that point,” Richards added. “And I am agreeing with everything that you said.
“But I just feel in Jack Grealish’s case, he has had to prove himself more than anybody. The quality is there to be seen from years ago. People might say ‘oh because I have played with him then I am going to be biased’.
“I mentioned John McGinn [and his quality] 18 months ago. And now everyone is seeing the benefit of John McGinn because I have been able to see up close and personal. If you go and watch Aston Villa for the last five years. You had not the greatest season when we went down, he didn’t have the best season, but after that, he has always been Aston Villa’s best player – this is not happening now, this has been happening for years.”
It could be argued that both Grealish and Phillips should play in a three-man midfield for England because they would complement each other’s game.
If Phillips sits as the single pivot and Jordan Henderson and Grealish play as number eights, with Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford as the front three then that would be a better fit than what Southgate is currently putting out.
This three at the back with two in midfield isn’t suiting anyone, including the likes of Phillips, who played in that position when he was last on national duty for his country before his injury.