Jordan Pickford Can a career’s low point come at its very start? Pickford’s professional debut was at Darlington, a 17-game loan spell that featured zero wins, 39 goals conceded and one eventual relegation. “In some ways non-league is the hard challenge.” he said. “You are a young lad and you’re having abuse hurled at you. That is what teaches you.”
Aaron Ramsdale His Bournemouth career was almost over before it started when he overslept and failed to show up for the bus to an away game against Chelsea. “That was the penny-dropping moment, because I was at home while they were playing and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Ramsdale told the Guardian. “I was distraught.”
Sam Johnstone Never made a first-team appearance at Manchester United and was loaned out to seven different clubs, even replacing the recalled Jordan Pickford at his hometown club, Preston. Johnstone saw two other loan moves cut short by finger injuries. He dislocated a finger in training at Scunthorpe, and suffered another mishap in the warm-up before a game for Yeovil Town.
Kyle Walker After earning the PFA young player of the year award in 2012, Walker established himself as England’s first-choice right-back just in time for the World Cup two years later, only to pick up a pelvic injury at the very end of the season. Now the national squad’s senior play, he says his footballing nadir gave him “a wise old head on my shoulders”.
Luke Shaw A horrific double-fracture in 2015 left Shaw “really close to losing my leg”. He was also subject to repeated criticism from his own manager for reasons unknown to even Shaw himself. But since José Mourinho’s departure Shaw has established himself as the country’s outstanding left-back. “He just needs to move on,” said Shaw last month, with a grin. “Hopefully he can finally stop worrying about me.”
John Stones A bleak loss of form two seasons ago led to the centre-back being dropped from the Manchester City side. When a teenage Eric García was preferred for a Champions League quarter-final, the writing looked on the wall and Everton were convinced Stones would be returning. But he stayed and is now a vital part of the country’s finest team – with a medal to prove it.
Harry Maguire Was given a suspended sentence of 21 months and 10 days for aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery on the Greek island of Mykonos in August 2020. He denies any wrongdoing. He described how he was “scared for my life” when arrested on the holiday island. An appeal has been lodged but a backlog means the case is unlikely to be heard in 2021.
Kieran Trippier Only returned from a 10-week ban for breaking betting rules in March. The defender was also fined £70,000 over the breach which, according to a Football Association investigation, was caused by telling friends about his imminent move to Atlético Madrid and how they should put money on the deal going through. He was not accused of benefiting from betting and returned in time to become La Liga champion with Atléti.
Tyrone Mings Deemed too small, Southampton released him aged 16 after seven years with the club. Mings was forced to play down an age group, which put the writing on the wall. It would take him a further three years to join another professional club when Ipswich snapped him up after spells at Yate and Chippenham.
Conor Coady Not much has fazed Coady during his career, having bounced back quickly from being sold by boyhood side Liverpool. He did, 하나, have reservations about Nuno Espirito Santo’s plan to turn him from a central midfielder to centre-back but he rapidly converted and it made him into an international.
Ben Chilwell He “was absolutely convinced he was going to get released” when he was 15 at Leicester, and nearly quit football altogether to pursue cricket: the year previously he signed for the Northants academy and even went to Loughborough for an England U15s trial. Leicester kept him on that summer, 그러나, and a few games into the new football season, he was captain of the U16s.
Ben White White was released at 16 by Southampton but his mum, Carole, got straight on the phone to other clubs for trials and Brighton took a chance. “The way I play now is with a lot of confidence. It’s the complete opposite of what I used to be,” admits White. “I was on the sidelines a lot. But I went to Brighton and went straight into the team. They believed in me.”
Reece James As a teenager, James grew disheartened after gaining weight and being overlooked for a long-term contract. Sunday morning drills with a fitness coach and shifting to a more defensive position helped him get back on track, but his progress while on loan at Wigan suffered after a serious ankle injury while on England duty at the 2019 Toulon tournament.
Declan Rice “It was horrendous,” remembered Rice’s father of the day his son was told Chelsea would be letting him go. “He was broken-hearted, crying.” But any anguish was quickly put aside as a 14-year-old Rice began training with Spurs, Reading and Fulham – from whom he turned down a generous contract – before eventually settling for West Ham, where he is now the jewel in the club’s crown.
Jack Grealish In a friendly with Watford in the summer of 2017 Grealish sustained a kick to the kidney. He required an operation to save the organ. “I was expecting to be back inside a week, but it was three or four months,”그는 말했다. The incident encouraged him to build up his physique to sustain the tackling his style of play invites.
Jordan Henderson In the summer of 2012, Henderson was to be the makeweight in a deal that would have taken him to Fulham and Clint Dempsey to Liverpool but refused to accept the move. As Brendan Rodgers’ team went close to the 2013-14 title, Henderson’s energy had proved vital to their surge. But a red card against Manchester City lost Liverpool his legs for the run-in. Now at the Euros as a Champions League and Premier League-winning captain.
Kalvin Phillips Working under Steve Evans was tricky for the midfielder, as he did not get the opportunities he hoped for having broken into the first team under his former youth coach Neil Redfearn. “He [Evans] would say I was starting a game and then we’d walk into the changing room before a game and I wouldn’t even be on the bench,” Phillips said. Now a regular with Leeds in the Premier League and with England.
Mason Mount It’s been a tough Euros for Mount, who was forced into self-isolation for 10 days after coming into contact with club-mate Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for Covid. After training alone, Mount was an unused sub against Germany but impressed against Ukraine and Denmark and now looks set to start in Sunday’s final.
Phil Foden The midfielder and Mason Greenwood were axed from the England squad last September after inviting women back to the team hotel in Iceland following a friendly, flagrantly breaking Covid-19 protocols. Gareth Southgate insisted that “trust needs to be rebuilt and that takes time” but after just two months (and an apology), the Stockport Iniesta was back in the England fold.
Bukayo Saka His early years at Arsenal’s academy were the toughest. He suffered “growing pains” in his knees and heels and “kept asking how long it would be until I was playing without pain”. His parents, who emigrated to London from Nigeria, worked long hours while driving Saka across the capital for training.
Jude Bellingham Moving abroad at such a young age is hard enough but Covid-19 has made travelling home harder, with his mum Denise staying in Germany to help him adjust. Travel restrictions threatened his 유로 2020 ambitions, while Bellingham has also dealt with the backlash after Birmingham retired his shirt number: “I had to take all the comments and the memes on the chin”.
Harry Kane His career has been blighted by a series of muscle and ankle injuries, and his appearance in the 2019 Champions League final betrayed his being rushed back. Another ankle injury the following season required an operation, and led to Kane adjusting his game to become far more of a playmaker, but while continuing to lead the Premier League scoring charts.
Raheem Sterling A tattoo of an M16 rifle caused tabloid outrage in 2016, even after Sterling revealed it was symbolic of the death of his father, who was shot dead in Jamaica when the player was two years old. Sterling’s private affairs and lifestyle have been picked apart repeatedly but he has shown great dignity and fortitude in exposing and speaking out against prejudice.
Marcus Rashford After a breakthrough under Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho was never convinced by Rashford’s talents and tethered him to the left wing in competition with Anthony Martial. Mourinho’s December 2018 sacking, and Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s appointment revived Rashford, granting him freedom and responsibility. Rashford stepped up to become a senior player, as well as one of Britain’s civic leaders with his campaigns for the underprivileged.
Jadon Sancho Decided he needed to leave Manchester City aged 17 as he did not see a path to the first-team under Pep Guardiola. He made the bold decision to join Borussia Dortmund. “Jadon kind of said: ‘Well, this pathway is not for me so I’ll just create my own,’” former coach Louis Lancaster told the Guardian.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin Had a huge growth spurt when he was 15, so much so that he developed Osgood-Schlatter disease and suffered a stress fracture in his lower back, which kept him out for about six months. “I’d always been the quickest but my body was letting me down,” he remembers. Calvert-Lewin didn’t regain full fitness until he was 17, but a coach switched him to striker, and the rest is history.