West Ham nightmare for Kalvin Phillips puts his England place in doubt

West Ham nightmare for Kalvin Phillips puts his England place in doubt

It looked to have all the makings of a redemptive love story, Kalvin Phillips and West Ham at last falling into one another’s arms after years of flirtation and the former’s ill-fated fling with a racier rival.

Instead, less than a month into the midfielder’s loan spell from Manchester City, things have all gone a bit What Happens In Vegas, the marriage a bright idea in the offing but so far less so in the cold light of day.

Saturday’s red card at Nottingham Forest completed a hat-trick of horror-shows for Phillips at the start of what is, for now, slated to be only a brief West Ham career, following errors that led to goals on debut against Bournemouth and in defeat at Old Trafford.

“I wanted this to be a fresh start, to get my head down and go for it,” Phillips said this week, having left the Etihad on the back of a spell in which he never broke through under Pep Guardiola, starting only two Premier League matches in 18 months. “It’s not gone as I would have hoped.”

Nor, for that matter, as Moyes might’ve, after at last landing a player he has sought for so long.

There is still time, of course, for things to come good, though not loads of it, given a one-match suspension will see Phillips miss Monday’s trip to Brentford and thus head into March still yet to make a positive contribution of note.

For all topping their Europa League group before Christmas was hailed as a great success, Moyes could be forgiven for wondering whether a play-off tie this week might have done his flagging team some escapist good. Phillips, certainly, could have used another chance to impress.

From no sort of form at City, to a bad run of it now, Phillips’ struggle has the makings of a headache for Gareth Southgate, who has just one more set of international fixtures - friendlies against Belgium and Brazil next month - before naming his Euro 2024 squad.

The England boss warned Phillips last year that he needed to be playing regular football to keep his place and spoke to Moyes in January before a deal strongly in the national team’s interest was done.

Phillips has been a Southgate favourite ever since his superb displays at Euro 2020 three summers ago, and twice in key qualifiers against Italy last year the 28-year-old put in performances that defied his lack of club minutes.

Recent weeks, though, have shown the danger of relying on players undercooked, a risk Southgate surely cannot take this summer, particularly with squad sizes back down to 23.

Unlike in the past, when he has pointed to a dearth of midfield options in defending Phillips’s continued selection, Southgate has options elsewhere, both for his line-up and his squad. Jordan Henderson is back playing in a league of substance, Conor Gallagher is in terrific form, and both Ross Barkley and Kobbie Mainoo are knocking on the door.

That is bad news for Phillips and in a strange way, given his preference for loyalty, perhaps for Southgate, too.