All the tweet was, was Kalvin Phillips scoring at Elland Road on his home debut, the Sky Bet Championship account bringing it out for Yorkshire Day instead of accepting that Leeds United are in the Premier League now and we no longer claim the Sky Bet. In the words of Mariah Carey, we don’t know her.
And nobody knows, from the tweet, what a weird and horrible time that was at Leeds. Now anyone can tweet about that game like history was being made, but at the time people like me were writing about it as an ongoing existential crisis being made real by the eerie absence of Cardiff fans, who were boycotting about only being allocated 500 tickets, and the eerie absence of Leeds fans, who were spending their day drinking ahead of Josh Warrington’s contest of skill and science with Dennis Tubieron later that night. Vinnie Jones was doing the ring walk, and Josh was carrying more fight than Leeds United were in those days. Hearing Marching on Together belted out by 10,000 at Leeds Arena that night beat anything from the 22,401 enduring the afternoon’s defeat to Cardiff. At Elland Road it was cold, it was raining, it was dark. It was April, but it was Leeds United.
Phillips’ goal was weird, a looping Charlie Taylor cross holding up in the wind, Cardiff keeper David Marshall falling over, his defenders looking in the wrong direction, Kalvin concentrating and cushioning the ball into an empty net. Cardiff’s two goals were terrible. Marco Silvestri put up a decent display to keep the score down, but nobody would help him at corners: both goals came from flick-ons to the back post, the first buried by Sean Morrison, the second scrambled in by Aron Gunnarsson after Silvestri made a point-blank save. There could have been more like that, and Silvestri got angry about it, but nobody cared. As for attacking, at one point Steve Morison tried to control a pass, and the ball bounced off the back of his kicking leg, onto his standing leg, and out for a throw-in. Neil Redfearn said he’d given them a rocket at half-time, without much effect. “I was more unhappy with the senior players than anything,” he said. “The kids give you effort and endeavour.”
He couldn’t really yell at the kids at this point, because the club had just launched its new season ticket campaign, with Lewis Cook, Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor alongside Norman Hunter, Eddie Gray and David Batty. If it felt like a lot of history was being skipped over, there were good reasons for that. The advert also felt oddly nostalgic about four players who weren’t older than 21. They were all that was good about Leeds at the time, doing it for Redders as a four across midfield, but we were already looking at them like an episode of Last of The Summer Wine. One scenario had these lads at the heart of a resurgent Leeds, hometown kids bringing home the Champions League. But to remind us that was madness, Jonny Howson popped up in midweek, scoring the decisive goal for Norwich and refusing to celebrate in front of the South Stand. At the end of the season Norwich were promoted through the play-offs, so at least someone was having fun. Leeds, meanwhile, after losing to Cardiff and Norwich, ended the week with a 2-1 defeat away to Charlton, without six players who were crying off and claiming to be sick. There were only two games of the season left after that, the only upside for Leeds.
None of this involved Kalvin Phillips much at the time. He was a year older than Lewis Cook, but only got into league squads in March, and only into the team after Cook’s injury was followed by Rudy Austin’s suspension. Scoring on his home debut made the game against Cardiff unforgettable for Kalvin, and looking back I was writing as much at the time. We all want sport to give us unforgettable moments, more like Josh Warrington’s fights than like six sick players, although they’ve gone down in history their own way. Only for Kalvin Phillips’ sake, I reckoned, should we be trying to remember anything about the otherwise numb blank of the Cardiff game, not letting a happy moment be buried by the bitterness all surrounding it. But it has only worked out that way now thanks to the Yorkshire Pirlo himself. Without Kalvin’s elevation to stardom, I can’t imagine a tweet about him knocking in an equaliser during a 2015 dead-rubber defeat to Cardiff getting much positive traction in 2021. Kalvin Phillips is, in the best way, rewriting history, so we can go back to one of the club’s worst weeks and enjoy what was good about it. A moment he always treasured personally, but usually alone, is now something we can share. ◉(Every magazine online, every podcast ad-free. Click here to find out how to support us with TSB+)