Where are they now? Leeds United’s XI from Kalvin Phillips’ debut in 2015

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Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips during his debut for his boyhood club, a 4-3 defeat to Wolves, Molineux, Wolverhampton, April 6th, 2015

Kalvin Phillips and Leeds United have come a long way since he was given his debut in a 4-3 defeat to Wolves back on April 6th, 2015.

A standout player for Leeds as they’ve re-established themselves as a top-flight force, Phillips also become the club’s first-ever representative in a European Championship final as England finished runners-up to Italy at Euro 2020.

He was later named the Three Lions’ Player of the Year and remains among his boyhood club’s most valuable assets, with reports of imminent big-money bids from the likes of West Ham, Newcastle and Aston Villa this summer.

“I didn’t tell you you were playing until the day of the game. Part of me didn’t want you to have a sleepless night but part of me knew you’d just step in and get on with it so there was no need to prepare you in any special way,” the Leeds manager who handed him his debut, Neil Redfearn, recently wrote in The Athletic.

“Did I sense then that you’d be playing in a European Championship final with England seven years later? It would be dishonest to say yes because in any academy there are a lot of elite players. But I knew you were a player, 100 per cent. I knew you’d push yourself.”

But what about the rest of that team? Here’s where they all are today.

GK: Marco Silvestri

Much-maligned during his spell in West Yorkshire, Italian goalkeeper Silvestri has rebuilt his reputation since returning to his homeland to sign for Hellas Verona in 2017.

He helped them get promoted in 2018-19 and has since caught the eye in Serie A. Roberto Mancini even called him up for the Azzurri in October 2020, but he’s yet to receive a senior cap, and he went on to make the step-up to Udinese last summer.

RB: Scott Wootton

Wootton followed the likes of Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, Eric Cantona, Rio Ferdinand, Alan Smith, Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan to cross the Pennines divide and represent both clubs. That’s where the similarities end.

After an unspectacular post-Leeds career where he represented a number of different clubs in the lower reaches of the Football League, in January 2022 Wootton signed for Australian side Wellington Phoenix… where he plays alongside fellow lower-league journeyman Gary Hooper.

CB: Liam Cooper

The centre-back captained Leeds on their return to the Premier League. ‘League One Liam’? No chance.

CB: Sol Bamba

The well-travelled Ivory Coast international’s time at Leeds ended somewhat abruptly at the start of the 2016-17 season. His contract was cancelled by mutual consent after it became clear that summer loan recruits Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley would be Garry Monk’s first-choice centre-back pairing.

He since became a cult hero at Cardiff, making more appearances for the Bluebirds than any other club, and playing a pivotal role in their 2017-18 promotion.

After beating Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the veteran defender made a remarkable return to playing – reuniting with former Leeds and Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock at Middlesbrough.

“Sol telephoned me to say he’d moved back to Leeds since his release from Cardiff and asked if I’d help him,” said Warnock.

“I’ve known him years, he’s a good lad, and after everything he’s been through this is the least I can do. We wish him well.”

He’s continued to turn out for the Smoggies despite Warnock’s departure earlier in the season, and even scored a penalty for Chris Wilder’s side as they knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup.

LB: Gaetano Berardi

The Swiss defender had some questionable, hot-headed moments over the years, but that didn’t stop him getting a hero’s farewell at the end of the 2020-21 season.

“Yes, it is the right moment, obviously having evaluated above all the last year,” Berardi told Tuttomercatoweb.

“I came from an important stop, I chased, but with the team in the Premier League there was a lot of competition. So I chose to look for something else to play more. But it was great precisely because they offered me to stay, it’s my choice.”

Berardi signed for Swiss side FC Sion in January – which has seen him reunited with Brazilian diving specialist Adryan.

READ: A love letter to Gaetano Berardi: Leeds’ lion, lunatic and long-awaited PL player

DM: Luke Murphy

Gone are the days in which £1million would feel like a bank-breaking, statement signing for Leeds.

‘We’re up all night for Luke Murphy’ was the chant that greeted his much-hyped arrival from Crewe Alexandra – sound of the summer, don’t you know? – back in 2013. While he struggled to live up to the billing, he did make over 100 Championship appearances for the club.

A stint at Bolton followed his loan at Burton Albion, and Murphy’s now back where it all began at Crewe. He returned to Elland Road in a 3-0 League Cup defeat to Marcelo Bielsa’s side earlier this season, and received a warm reception from the home fans.

RW: Sam Byram

Byram left Leeds for West Ham in January 2016 and spent two and a half seasons on their books before joining Norwich, but injuries have severely impacted his gametime – he’s made just 39 league starts, only three more than in his final full season at Elland Road, in five and a half years since his departure.

A hamstring injury, and subsequent surgery, meant he didn’t play a minute of Norwich’s promotion-winning 2020-21 campaign. He’s since returned and made a handful of appearances in the Canaries’ ill-fated fight against relegation.

CM: Kalvin Phillips

He’s done alright for himself, hasn’t he?

READ: All hail Kalvin Phillips, England’s (Sixty) Six Million Dollar Man rebuilt by Bielsa

CM: Alex Mowatt

There was a time in which Mowatt and Phillips were on a similar standing, but their careers have gone on divergent paths.

The Doncaster-born midfielder joined Barnsley in January 2017 and went on to become a fan favourite at Oakwell, playing a starring role in their promotion from League One in 2018-19, great escape the following year, and unlikely play-off push in the Championship in 2020-21.

He was seen wishing Phillips a good luck message ahead of the Euro 2020 final ahead of his reunion with former Tykes boss Valerien Ismael at West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer last summer. But Ismael was sacked mid-season, and Mowatt is now turning out under Steve Bruce as the Baggies endure an underwhelming midtable Championship campaign.

 

LW: Charlie Taylor

Completing a quartet of Thorp Arch academy graduates ahead of Murphy in midfield, Taylor played on the wing here – like Byram on the opposite flank – before settling as a right-back.

Like so many others during Leeds’ 16-year spell outside the top flight, Taylor took the short way round to Premier League football by joining Burnley following the expiration of his contract in 2017. He’s proven himself over the course of over 100 Premier League appearances for Sean Dyche’s Clarets.

ST: Mirco Antenucci (Billy Sharp, ’82)

A voluptuous mane and lack of pace meant that Italian striker Antenucci very much looked the veteran before his Leeds farewell in 2016.

Six years later, at the age of 37, he’s still playing – down in Serie C with fallen giants Bari. But prior to his current club, he enjoyed three successful seasons with overachievers SPAL, with 18 goals to get the club promoted to Serie A in 2016-17 before a further 16 goals across two seasons in the Italian top flight.

Likewise, Sharp has continued to bang in the goals, and remains the top-scoring Englishman currently active. A forgettable year with Leeds only resulted in five, but he found his shooting boots again in a third stint back at boyhood club Sheffield United.

Since rejoining Blades in 2015, Sharp has scored 107 goals in 243 appearances, including 30 to get them promoted from League One in 2016-17, 23 to go up from the Championship at Leeds’ expense in 2018-19, and six more during their two-year stay in the Premier League. The 36-year-old striker is inevitably in double figures in the Championship once again this season.


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