Gareth Southgate hails Jude Bellingham’s ‘great maturity’ after teen’s first England start
England v Austria: Match in pictures
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Jude Bellingham convinced Gareth Southgate he is ready for a starring role in the Euros the moment he got stuck into his senior team-mates in training.
Even if, from practical point-of-view, the last thing the England manager needs is any more injuries.
As Southgate considers his various fitness conundrums, 17-year-old Bellingham is a refreshing burst of healthy youthful vitality.
Indeed, from the first meeting at St George’s Park on Saturday, the emphasis has not so much been on nursing him through the tournament as reining him through.
Bukayo Saka and he, two of the real youngsters in the squad, were given the no. 25 and no. 26 shirts respectively for the tournament.
However, against Austria he showed his first eleven potential in the no. 8 shirt presented to him, by its usual owner Jordan Henderson.
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“It was a dream come true, especially to get my shirt from Hendo, who has been such a big part of the team,” Bellingham said after his first international start.
“I’m very thankful to him and the team for making it an enjoyable one, and we got the win.
“I loved every minute of it. It was obviously a dream come true to start for England. Hopefully many more to come.”
Southgate described the presentation as a “nice moment,” adding: “Hendo spoke a little bit about him, how he played with a great maturity.”
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Of course, there is a still some youthful exuberance in the mix, by Southgate is more impressed by the way he has been accepted by a group which includes World Cup semi-finalists.
“Jude really competes well and he probably runs more than he needs to at the moment and that’s normal for all young players,” Southgate said.
“But we couldn’t be happier.
“The whole group respect him, he has great humility around the camp but he plays with – and I don’t want to say a lack of respect because he has a huge respect for everybody here – but he doesn’t respect them in training.
“He competes with them like he’s been with them from day one which is a great mentality to have.”
Having joined Birmingham as an eight-year-old he was barely a month past his 16th birthday he became a fixture in the first team and was attracting interest from top clubs before the end of his first full season.
Borussia Dortmund was the destination of choice because of their reputation for being brave enough to blood young players, and after scoring on his debut, Bellingham never looked back.
He went on to play 29 times in the Bundesliga and through Dortmund’s Champions League campaign, where we was their best player in both legs of their quarter-final defeat to Manchester City.
Having twice previously come on as a substitute for England, he is now quickly adjusting to the international stage.
Southgate enthused: “You’ve seen against Austria what he is capable of, we’ve seen that not only in the Bundesliga matches for Borussia Dortmund but especially the Champions League matches where he had to respond well to that challenge.
“He may be a 17-year-old player, but he’s not just here for the experience.”
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