Jesse Lingard has labelled making his World Cup debut against Tunisia as one of the proudest moments of his life so far.
The youngster, who played under Gareth Southgate at youth level for England, has earned a place in his starting XI at the finals following a season of impressive progress going forward at Manchester United.
Wearing the No.7 shirt, he featured in attacking midfield during the 2-1 win over Tunisia and produced some good moments on the ball, but will no doubt rue some poor finishing in the first half.
He took to social media after the game to express his delight at following in the footsteps of players like David Beckham and Bobby Robson.
Last night was one of the proudest moments of my life. @England’s Number 7 at a World Cup!
Ball 7⃣ Robson 7⃣ Keegan 7⃣ Beckham 7⃣
— Jesse Lingard (@JesseLingard) June 19, 2018
You hope Lingard, stepping out onto the Volgograd pitch last night, was able to put the game plan, occasion and mosquitos out of his head, just for a moment, and simply take it all in.
Four years ago, he had just finished a loan spell at Brighton and Hove Albion – not a single senior appearance for Man United under his belt. He was about to head on loan to Derby County. He was just one of many young hopefuls flitting between Championship clubs, the majority of which descend into lower league anonymity.
But he kept at it. He believed in himself, eventually appealing to Louis van Gaal‘s admiration of acute discipline and the promise of homegrown youth. And since then he has only looked up and onwards.
That journey, all those sacrifices and setbacks and doubts, has taken him to the World Cup, number seven proudly on his back. He can take a moment today to feel extremely proud.