He might not be a household name just yet, but Jesse Lingard has been backed to play his way into the nation’s focus by one of his former bosses.
The Manchester United forward scored his first goal for the club in their win over West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, after a series of eye-catching display in recent weeks.
And whilst the 23-year-old might not have been well known outside of Old Trafford before this season, his breakthrough comes as no shock to England Under-21s head coach Gareth Southgate.
UEFA European U21 Championship
Bosnia-Herzegovina v England
12noon, Thursday 12 November
Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadion, Sarajevo
England v Switzerland
5.45pm, Monday 16 November
Amex Stadium, Brighton
Live on BT Sport
Call 0844 327 1901 for tickets
Lingard was a regular in Southgate’s team during their last Euro campaign, culminating in a stunning winner against eventual Euro champions Sweden at the Finals in Czech Republic in July.
Sadly Lingard is too old for the U21s this term, but his old coach believes there’s plenty more to come from the Warrington-born hotshot.
“We’re not surprised, because we’ve liked him from the off,” revealed Southgate, who is currently preparing his side for Euro Qualifiers with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Switzerland at St. George’s Park.
“Physically, he’s been a late developer and I think there’s still some physical growth to come but he’s an intelligent footballer.
“He will carry out the role he’s been asked, which I think the manager [Louis van Gaal] there will quite like, and he’s got a terrific work ethic without the ball.
“He’s got clean feet, a very clean, sharp touch and likes to come in off the line, pass and follow and he’s quick.
“He can also play as a number 10 and get in beyond the striker and he will score goals.”
Lingard has been with United’s academy since he was seven, progressing through the ranks and gaining experience on loan with the likes of Birmingham City, Derby County, Leicester City and Brighton & Hove Albion as well as with England U17s and U19s.
But he’s had to wait for his opportunity to shine on the first-team stage at Old Trafford and Southgate believes United were right to show patience and keep faith in the player.
“At the club, I remember him being in the U18s and speaking to Brian McClair about him because he was a small one and they stuck with him,” revealed Southgate.
Watch Lingard’s goal for the U21s against Germany from March
“So they’ve been very good as a club in academy terms of sticking with those late developers and I still think there’s more to come.
“We’ve had a little glimpse, and I have every confidence he can go on and do even more.
“It was a great shame that he got injured in the first game of last season but he was a player we had a great belief in and we were chuffed when he was available for [U21s duty] the summer.
“Under pressure, he performed really well and that’s key for big clubs. He lives for football really, loves to train and loves to play.
“I’m really pleased to see him getting his chance now and I was amazed that they weren’t inundated with more bids to prise him away in the summer, especially having played as well as he did in the Euros.”
You can see Southgate’s new U21s in action against Switzerland at the Amex Stadium in Brighton on Monday 16 November. Tickets cost just £10 and £5 for can be purchased by clicking here or by calling 0844 327 1901.