Jesse Lingard was in typically relaxed and buoyant spirits as he boarded the coach to the airport for England’s trip to Moscow ahead of their mammoth World Cup semi-final with Croatia.
The Englishman has played a pivotal role for Gareth Southgate’s side at these finals, bursting forward down the middle and providing an efficient link between midfield and attack.
His importance to the shape and feel of this side is highlighted by the fact that only one midfielder who has played over three games possesses a better pass completion rate.
And if you thought the pressure of a World Cup semi-final was getting to him, think again.
Lingard exudes a sense of life, of not caring and certainly not thinking too much. He is a welcome contrast with the neurotic, burdened England players of the past, who made going to a World Cup seem like jury duty, or perhaps Afghanistan.
On the pitch, however, he is all work. Hard, hard work. He ran more than a kilometre more than any other player against Colombia, completed twice the amount of dribbles managed by anyone against Sweden. He has a scored England’s best goal of the tournament, provided the assist for Dele Alli’s killer goal in the quarter-final. What he does off the ball is just as crucial, if not more.
Put simply, if you thought Lingard wasn’t good enough for this level, think again.