Children at Kalvin Phillips’s old primary school are predicting victory for England on Sunday with their hero on the scoresheet.
Year 6 pupils at Whingate Primary in Leeds said the midfielder is inspirational and everyone is talking about how he played on the same pitch as them.
Grace Kellman, 11, said: “If he’s been able to be a footballer, then we can be what we want to be as well.
“I think it’s going to be 4-3. I think he’s going to score a goal as well.”
He's a really big inspiration and we walk in the steps that he's walked. He's been on that field. He's done what we've done. It's amazing
Todd Hardaker, 11
Noah Parle, also 11, said: “It’s just amazing to watch someone that used to go to your school on TV.
“I think it’s going to be 2-2 and then on penalties, 5-4 to England, and Kalvin’s going to score one of the normal goals.”
Todd Hardaker, 11, said: “I think it’s going to be 2-1 – Kalvin to assist one goal and, when Italy are in attack, he’s going to always bring it down and set us on a counter-attack.
“I think it’s just amazing how he went to our school and now he’s a class player playing for England.
“He’s a really big inspiration and we walk in the steps that he’s walked. He’s been on that field. He’s done what we’ve done. It’s amazing.”
Todd also told how his “cool auntie” arranged for him to get a personal 11th birthday message from Phillips.
He said: “He’s been playing brilliantly. He wasn’t scared to tackle, he’s had a few shots, he’s played excellently. And he’s always got that cheeky-chappie smile.”
Co-headteacher Karen Loney said she is one of quite a few members of staff still at Whingate who taught Phillips 14 years ago.
Ms Loney said: “He was exactly as he presents now – a really happy, positive, smiley young man, very passionate about sport, particularly football. And he worked hard.
“We’re all really proud of him.
“He had a winning smile and I think he still does now.
“On my end of Year 6 report I wrote exactly that and described him as a cheeky chappy, which I think probably sums him up quite nicely still now.”
The co-head said the school held a special day ahead of the semi-final match on Wednesday with all the children in red-and-white or a football strip of their choice.
They also learned about the four countries in the semis.
Ms Loney said: “They’re absolutely buzzing, they’re so excited.
“To have not only a local lad but somebody who came to our school to go on to be so successful for Leeds United and now for the national side, and for that national side to have got to the dizzy heights of the final, what an inspiration to all the children.
“The whole school’s buzzing.”
Andy Rhodes, who taught Phillips in Y5, said: “He was funny, he was enthusiastic, he always had a smile on his face and he worked really hard at school.”
Mr Rhodes said the young star liked to play up front in his primary school days but “he was everywhere on the pitch”.
He said: “He was great in defence, he was great in midfield, he was great in attack. I think you could tell from an early age he was going to be that midfielder who could move everywhere and do everything.”
Mr Rhodes said it was not all football for Phillips, and he was particularly good at maths.
He said: “We’re so proud of him for what he’s doing now but we were absolutely proud of him when he was here for all of his achievements.
“What we knew with Kalvin was just what a hard worker he was, even though he was laid back he knew where he wanted to go and he had the talent.
“It’s perhaps not a surprise he’s made it as far as he has.”