England have reached the World Cup semi-final for only the third time in their history – but many of their Russian heroes are unlikely stars with unusual paths to the top.
Gone are the academy-raised, household names of the ‘Golden Generation’ and in their place is a squad featuring players who have plied their trade at the likes of Darlington, Alfreton, Halifax, Welling and Aldershot.
Three, in particular, impressed in the 2-0 quarter-final win against Sweden.
Harry Maguire scored the first goal, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was named man of the match and Kieran Trippier was outstanding again.
Those three – not even in the squad when qualifying began and all uncapped in competitive games until October – topped your player ratings for the win in Samara. Here, we look at their remarkable rises.
|Some of the clubs that England’s World Cup squad have played for|
|Darlington, Alfreton, Burton, Carlisle, Bradford, Coventry, Barnsley, Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax, Fleetwood, Peterborough, Bristol City, Leyton OrientMillwall, Harrow, Welling, Aldershot|
Kieran Trippier – unexpected emergence of the ‘Bury Beckham’
Age: 27 Position: Right-back Caps: 11
Right-back Trippier only made his Premier League debut at the age of 23 and did not make his England bow until June last year – in a friendly defeat by France.
He came through the Manchester City academy but never broke into their first team. After two spells at Barnsley and one at Burnley – all in the Championship – he joined the Clarets for a reported £450,000 in January 2012.
After 185 appearances for the Clarets he moved to Tottenham for £3.5m in 2015 – but only made six Premier League appearances in his first campaign and 12 in his second.
He benefited from now England team-mate Kyle Walker’s move to Manchester City last summer, but even then only started 21 league games in 2017-18 as he battled with Serge Aurier for a place in the team.
A major beneficiary of Gareth Southgate’s decision to play 3-5-2 and move Walker to the centre, ‘the Bury Beckham’ has excelled in Russia in a right wing-back role, setting up 13 chances and scoring in the shootout against Colombia.
On comparisons with the England great’s crossing, he said: “Loads of people have been saying that but I’m nowhere near Beckham’s qualities. All I can do is keep doing the best I can and every opportunity I get I’ll try to put balls in like David Beckham.”
Harry Maguire – sent on loan after 91 Premier League minutes
Age: 25 Position: Centre-back Caps: 10
Harry Maguire’s rise is best demonstrated by the fact he was at Euro 2016 as a fan – at which stage he had made a total of three Premier League appearances.
Asked recently by BBC Radio 5 live if he could see himself playing for England at that stage, he replied: “Definitely not. Hull went up through the play-offs but I wasn’t a regular. If I thought I’d be in this position I’d be dreaming.”
Maguire came through the youth set-up at his hometown Sheffield United, playing in League One until 2013-14. He joined Hull that summer but after 91 minutes of Premier League action, he went on loan to Wigan.
He did end up breaking into the Tigers team and after a season in the Premier League earned himself a £17m move to Leicester last summer, with then manager Craig Shakespeare suggesting he could be a “future England captain”.
He was an ever present for the Foxes in the league, and says playing against England team-mate Jamie Vardy in training made him a better player.
He only made his England debut in the final World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in October – the same game in which Trippier made his competitive debut.
With his header against Sweden, Maguire became the first player to score their first England goal in a World Cup knockout match since Rio Ferdinand in 2002 against Denmark.
Maguire told BBC Radio 5 live: “It’s a remarkable rise I have had over the last year or two. At the moment I’m in a bubble and maybe I’ll realise my achievement over time.”
BBC One pundit Ferdinand said: “In both boxes Harry Maguire was immense. He was a man-mountain but with the ball at his feet he is graceful as well. He is indispensable to this team at the moment.”
Jordan Pickford – Alfreton in 2013, World Cup semi-final in 2018
Age: 24 Position: Goalkeeper Caps: Eight
It seems strange to put the third most expensive goalkeeper of all time on a list of unlikely heroes – but Pickford has only had two full seasons in the Premier League., one of which ended in relegation.
The 24-year-old has, however, already played in the top five divisions of English football.
Pickford started his career with local club Sunderland but had loan spells in the Conference with Darlington and Alfreton, Burton in League Two, Carlisle and Bradford in League One and Preston in the Championship before breaking into the Black Cats team.
After 35 appearances for Sunderland – where he kept only five clean sheets behind a shambolic defence – Everton paid up to £30m to sign him last summer.
He impressed for the Toffees, despite their disappointing season, and made his England debut in November, keeping a clean sheet against Germany in a friendly.
England’s World Cup opener against Tunisia was his competitive debut after seeing off the challenge of Jack Butland. He saved a penalty as England won the first World Cup penalty shootout in their history against Colombia.
After three fantastic saves and a clean sheet against Sweden, boss Gareth Southgate called him “the prototype of what the modern goalkeeper should be”. BBC One co-commentator Martin Keown said it was “the game of his life”.
Former Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann said: “What really impressed me was Jordan Pickford’s overall game and his distribution. His body language was always positive. You had the feeling he commanded his box.”
Pickford is the youngest England goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup match at 24 years and 122 days.