FOOTBALLER KALVIN Phillips has just had the most important year of his career, with a £46million move to Manchester City, playing for England in the World Cup and a treble-winning season.
But he knows the odds were stacked against him becoming a superstar due to a poverty-stricken childhood with his dad in prison.
Kalvin Phillips tells how his upbringing has driven him to strive for successGetty
Kalvin’s dad Mark has been in and out of prison throughout his life and is currently serving a 12-year sentencePrime Video / NEO Studios
A new Amazon Prime documentary will see Kalvin talk about growing up on a deprived council estateInstagram
Mark Phillips, who has been in and out of jail throughout Kalvin’s life for offences involving violence and drugs, is currently serving a 12-year sentence.
Now the former Leeds midfielder has revealed in new Amazon Prime documentary Kalvin Phillips: The Road To City how life on a deprived estate as the eldest of four kids made him determined to succeed.
Kalvin, 27, says: “My drive is probably from not having a father figure there.
“I’ve always wanted to make my mum proud.
“Dad was in and out of prison.
“It affected our relationship because we didn’t see him all the time.
‘I want to have a better relationship with him’
“When he went away we knew he wasn’t coming back for a while, which was the worst thing.”
Kalvin was born a triplet, although one of the two girls died.
A 40ft mural of Kalvin appeared in Leeds city centre in 2020PA
After his transfer to Man City, Kalvin moved into a plush penthouse apartment with childhood sweetheart Ashleigh BehanInstagram
Kalvin speaks about how his dad missed his meteoric rise to Premier League and England gloryGetty
Mum Lindsay Crosby, who went on to have another daughter and a younger son, held down two jobs to make ends meet.
She worked in a cash-and-carry from 9am to 3pm, going home to cook dinner for the four children, then putting in a shift at a pizza takeaway from 7pm to midnight.
Lindsay also did her best to protect the children from the truth about their dad.
In the documentary, she explains: “I tried to hide a lot of things from the kids because I didn’t want them to think that this was OK.
“I used to say he’d gone to work because I didn’t want them to think it was normal to behave like that.”
The footballer visits the house in Armley, Leeds, where he lived until he was 21, and the pitch where he played for his first team, Wortley, from the age of eight until he was signed to Leeds Academy at 14.
Best pal Liam Duggan recalls Kalvin’s dad supporting his team between stretches inside.
He says: “He’d be on the touchline, smoking weed and shouting different things.
“Kalvin respected his dad a lot.
“He was the alpha figure and when he wasn’t there, Kalvin took that kind of role.”
Kalvin rose through the academy ranks and was signed to Leeds United at 19, making his professional debut in 2015 and going on to become one of the club’s most accomplished players.
In 2020, a 40ft mural of the player, painted by street artist Akse P19, appeared in Leeds city centre.
“It’s emotional seeing that big mural of his face as you drive through town,” says sister Jade Charlton.
“It’s crazy. It fills me with pride.”
While in jail, Mark followed his son’s career with pride and the pair spoke over the phone every couple of weeks.
Kalvin recalled in an interview with The Times in 2020: “He rang me a couple of weeks after we’d been promoted and said, ‘Listen to this’.
“All the people who were waiting for a phone call in prison were there, all singing (Leeds anthem) Marching On Together, banging on the walls. It was mad.”
But as Kalvin honed his footballing skills, he did not reveal to his team-mates that his dad was locked up in Wealstun Prison, just yards from the Leeds training ground.
Revealing he hasn’t seen his father for seven years, he said: “It was strange, because every time I drove past it I would think about him.
“When I was young I didn’t want to talk about it but now it’s like, ‘Yeah, my dad’s in prison’. It’s not that big a deal.”
After his transfer to Manchester City, Kalvin moved in to a plush penthouse apartment overlooking the club’s Etihad Stadium with childhood sweetheart Ashleigh Behan.
He says in the documentary: “I never thought I’d be so lucky as to live in a house like this, especially if you compare them to where I lived when I was younger.”
But the programme shows how he dislocates his shoulder 30 minutes into his first game for City — and during his seven-week recovery, thoughts turn to his dad.
He says: “He’s been in for so long.
“I don’t want him to think he’s got nowt when he comes out, when obviously we’ve done so well and I’ve done so well.
“When my dad comes out I just want to try and have a better relationship with him so he doesn’t feel like he’s missed out.”
Kalvin reveals his guilt at not visiting Mark in prison for seven years.
He says: “I could have done more to see my dad but I’m very busy and, to be fair, he has said he doesn’t like us to visit him because he doesn’t like us to see him in prison and he doesn’t want us to be in the environment.
‘My nan is the only reason why I’m here’
“Obviously he’s made some wrong decisions but I don’t judge him for them because I’ve heard about the upbringing he had, and it was tough.
“When he was younger my dad was racially abused all the time — he’s told me that himself.”
Kalvin also talks about his beloved ‘Granny Val’ who helped raise him and his three siblingsInstagram
The £8million-a-year Manchester City star also visits the grave of his beloved “Granny Val”, who helped raise him and his three siblings.
Kalvin says: “I miss my nan every day.
“I owe Granny Val probably everything that I’ve got right now.
“I remember her being in hospital and struggling to breathe and we were saying, ‘we love you’.
“Everyone was very emotional on that call.
“We knew that was the last time we’d see our gran’s face.
“If I could give away all my money to spend another hour with her, I would do that.
“She’s the only reason why I’m here.”
Throughout the hour-long special, filmed over a year, Kalvin comes across as down-to-earth as he chats to fans and poses with them for selfies outside the Etihad Stadium.
He says: “I was a very shy kid but if I asked anyone for an autograph, even if they said no, I was starstruck.
“So if anyone asks me I will go out of my way to sign an autograph or pose for a photo because I remember what it was like to be that kid.”
In a telling moment, Kalvin returns to his home turf of Elland Road in Leeds, shortly after being labelled “overweight” by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and left out of December’s Carabao Cup game against Liverpool.
He is taunted by fans chanting: “You’re too fat to play for Leeds.”
But while many Premier League players might have reacted badly to the slur, cheeky Kalvin smiles and applauds the crowd for their jibes.
Childhood friend Liam insists fame and fortune have not turned his head.
He says: “Kalvin’s got amazing talent and he’s come from nothing.
“He’s worked for what he’s got and he’s never changed.
“That’s a great example for kids that are wanting to follow in his footsteps.”
Yet wherever he is playing in two years’ time, he’ll be looking out for a very special spectator in the crowd.
The documentary culminates with Kalvin visiting his dad in prison for the first time in seven years — and he is keen to make up for lost time when Mark is released.
Kalvin says: “He’s only got two more years in the prison and he’s told me exactly what he wants to do when he gets out, which is to come and watch football, and that’s one thing I can help him do.
“It will be nice because I’ve not had him there for such a long time.”
Kalvin Phillips: The Road To City is available on Amazon Prime from tomorrow