Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips wouldn't be where he is without the influence of his late Granny Val.
By Joe Urquhart
The Whites midfielder will have a shot at immortality when he takes to the pitch for England at Wembley stadium on Sunday night.
Gareth Southgate's Three Lions are just one game away from winning the European Championships - with Roberto Mancini's Italy standing in the way - after reaching their first major final for 55 years.
Phillips has been at the heart of this summer's Euros for England, starting every game of the tournament having developed a strong partnership with West Ham's Declan Rice in midfield.
The 25-year-old, though, has kept family at the forefront of his mind, paying tribute to his grandmother first with his boots and then with a special shirt following the semi-final victory over Denmark in the capital.
Granny Val, as she was affectionately known, rose to stardom among Whites supporters in the club's Take Me Home documentary two seasons ago.
Phillips has spoken openly about the role she played in his life both on and off the pitch and United were hit with the sad news of her passing in February due to Covid.
The Thorp Arch academy product is thankful for head coach Marcelo Bielsa's influence in helping him realise his talent but off the pitch it is his grandma who takes much of the credit.
“I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for her,” Phillips said. “Every time I put the England shirt on I think of her.
“Yeah, I actually think I would not be as far in to the tournament if I didn’t respect my grandma that way and show the love and support she deserved.
“I do feel like she is up there looking down and cheering me on.”
Asked about her influence, he said: “It was just her example. She worked a lot. My mum worked in a pizza place but my grandma worked for the Tote at the races. She was there for 50 years or 60 years. It’s just morals in life.
“Teaching me what kind of person to be and how to treat others and that hard work can get you as far as you want. That’s what she taught me and it will always stick with me.”
That approach coupled with his talent as a footballer has helped Phillips inspire the next generation in Leeds, with childhood club Wortley receiving so much interest following his ascent that they are setting up a women’s team.
“Have they, yeah? I didn’t know that,” he said smiling. “I know a lot of people from Leeds are behind me and it’s spreading more through the Yorkshire area.
“To inspire more people to be involved in football and especially at my home town club where I started before Leeds is inspirational.
“It gives me goosebumps when I think about it and hopefully it can carry on.”