- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Jude Bellingham never thought he would be part of the England squad at this point, let alone make history as the youngest ever player to feature at a European Championship.
After bursting onto the scene at Birmingham and flourishing with Borussia Dortmund, the talented 17-year-old was named in Gareth Southgate’s 26-strong squad for this summer’s rearranged tournament.
Bellingham has shown maturity that belies his tender years and replaced Holland’s Jetro Willems as the youngest ever player to grace the Euros when brought off the bench in Sunday’s 1-0 win against Croatia.
“It’s not bad, to be fair, it’s a good record,” the England midfielder said after making his major tournament bow aged 17 years and 349 days.
“When you just set your mind on something and you just try and follow it through and manage to do it so buzzing with that, to be fair.
“I just never thought I’d be here, really. If it was when it was supposed to take place last summer, I would have been nowhere near it obviously.
“But I think I’ve just had a good season, kept my head down and things have kind of just come one after another and I’ve managed to get here.
“I’m just trying to represent my country well and my family and that.”
Bellingham replaced captain Harry Kane with eight minutes remaining at roasting hot Wembley, where he battled on after a knock and faced Croatia star Luka Modric.
“I got a bang to the head as well that really hurt but I was just trying to do my job,” he told Lions’ Den in the build-up to Friday’s clash with Scotland.
“I was thinking ‘don’t you dare let them get back in the game while you’re on the pitch’ so every ball that was there to be won, I just tried to go through it and get it back for us.
“(Modric) was probably the highlight for them, he had a really good game. You’re watching him from the sideline thinking ‘how would I approach it coming against him?’
“In a minute, you’re against him and you kind of just have to work it out as you’re on the job. I thought I’d done alright so I’ve just to keep it going.”
Bellingham was delighted to step out at “Wembo” in front of his family, having been unable to play with them in the stands in a competitive match for some time due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The 17-year-old’s chances to see loved ones have also been impacted by the pandemic during his first year in Germany, but he is loving life at Dortmund.
“To be fair, it was a decision that was quite easy in the end,” said Bellingham, who Manchester United had hoped to bring to the club.
“I think if you look at Dortmund’s track record with young players and the way they develop them, it was the obvious answer.
“Obviously at the time it’s hard to see it like that because you’ve got so many other options: to stay at Birmingham, etc.
“But my strength of character I’d probably say it comes from my parents and stuff.
“In terms of the decision I made, I had all their support throughout the whole way so I was quite comfortable in making it.”
Bellingham’s move not only caused ripples because of following compatriot Jadon Sancho to Dortmund but the fact Birmingham retired the teenager’s number 22 shirt “to remember one of our own and to inspire others”.
“It was a bit of a weird one at first, you know,” Bellingham said. “I appreciated the gesture and stuff.
“I know a lot of people didn’t agree with it and, you know, in their opinion rightly so.
“But when I look back on my time at Birmingham, I realise I was quite a big role model for the kids in Birmingham and I set quite a few records and stuff.
“If that’s the decision they want to take, I’m never going to publicly go against the people at Birmingham who brought me up, so I had to kind of take all the hate and the comments and the memes on the chin! But it’s one of them things.”