On the pitch they are the football stars hoping to return home heroes by bringing the World Cup trophy back from Qatar – but how much do you really know about the lives of the Three Lions?

While the national team will be hungry for success on the pitch, it appears one of England’s three goalkeepers will also be hungry for a doner kebab meat pizza on their return.

Among Gareth Southgate’s 26 man squad is also a centre back described by his teachers as a model student, a star striker released as a youngster because he was a ‘bit chubby’ and a winger who has attracted legions of fans for… his calves.

The side, who are currently fourth favourite among the bookies to win the competition, jetted off today from Birmingham Airport ahead of their first game against Iran on Monday.

And they will be hoping to emulate the success of the Lionesses at this tournament, after the Women’s side ended England’s near 60-year wait for an international trophy.

Here MailOnline paints a mini profile of each of the Three Lions, looking to bring home the World Cup trophy for the first time since 1966:

Harry Kane (striker and captain) 

Born in Walthamstow, east London, Harry Kane has worked his way up the youth ranks at Tottenham Hotspur to become one of the world’s most prolific strikers.

The star striker, 29, is just two goals off becoming England’s record scorer and will be expected to top Wayne Rooney by the end of the tournament.

But his talent wasn’t instantly recognisable, at least to youth team coaches at Arsenal, who dropped him from their ranks as a kid.

Then club of youth development, Liam Brady, once said of Kane: ‘He was a bit chubby. He wasn’t very athletic, but we made a mistake.’

The England captain is married to Katie and met while at school in Waltham Forest, East London.

The pair got engaged during July 2017, on a holiday in the Bahamas and married in 2019. They have three children, two daughters and a son.

She has 222,000 Instagram followers and regularly shows her support for England and his club Spurs.

However, Katie, who shuns the spotlight, did not make it to Russia to join his parents and is unlikely to travel to Qatar.

Harry Kane (pictured with his wife Katie Goodland) is just two goals off becoming England's record scorer and will be expected to top Wayne Rooney by the end of the tournament

Harry Kane (pictured with his wife Katie Goodland) is just two goals off becoming England’s record scorer and will be expected to top Wayne Rooney by the end of the tournament

England's striker Harry Kane will captain the team in Qatar. Kane was first named captain of England just before the 2018 World Cup, where he finished the competition as the top goal scorer. He's largely considered one of the best strikers in the world

England’s striker Harry Kane will captain the team in Qatar. Kane was first named captain of England just before the 2018 World Cup, where he finished the competition as the top goal scorer. He’s largely considered one of the best strikers in the world

Kyle Walker (defender) 

Manchester City star Kyle Walker has been a regular feature in Gareth Southgate’s side. The right-back, who can also play at centre back, is known for his rapid recovery pace and his ability to take the ball forward.

But while his pace on the pitch will no doubt drive opponents crazy, off the pitch it is apparently his dedication to cleanliness that drives his girlfriend, Annie Kilner, crazy.

He said:  ‘I like things to be clean. I don’t like mess. My missus will probably tell you that I drive her insane with all my cleanliness.

‘It’s probably why I’ve got 20 packs of baby wipes in a cupboard down there just so when I come into my sneaker closet, I can keep them clean and fresh.’

The pair married earlier this year. They have known each other since they were teenagers, but have had a rocky relationship, involving cheating scandal in 2020, in which it is alleged he had a love child with another woman.

Walker, 32, now turns out for City, and has won four Premier League titles with the UAE-owned side. He previously starred for Tottenham, playing right back while his childhood best friend Danny Rose, who he knew back from his days in Sheffield, playing left back.

Luke Shaw (defender) 

South-west London-born Luke Shaw has long been touted as an England star. While playing for Southampton he got his first call-up at 18 – before he had even learned to drive. He wouldn’t pass his driving test for another four years.

He later made a big money move to Manchester United, where he initially fell out with manager Jose Mourinho.

But he has slowly and surely made his way back into the fold, both at club and international level, and is now almost guaranteed to start for England at the World Cup.

His girlfriend is Anouska Santos. Earlier this year the pair welcomed a baby daughter, a sister for their son.

She is a fashion blogger with more than 50,000 Instagram followers and has recently posted from Paris, Dubai, Mykonos and Marbella.

Stunning Anouska is often spotted in the crowd at Old Trafford cheering on left-back Luke. A proud mother, Anouska and Luke welcome their first child together – a son – Reign London, in November 2019.

Announcing her pregnancy, Anouska shared a picture of her scan along with a snap of her Luke. ‘I hope he’s just like you, with a little bit of me,’ she wrote.

Luke Shaw and Anouska Santos at a black tie event. The couple gave birth to their first child, Storie, in May this year, after five years of dating

Luke Shaw and Anouska Santos at a black tie event. The couple gave birth to their first child, Storie, in May this year, after five years of dating

Declan Rice (defender) 

The West Ham captain has become one of the first names on the team sheet under Southgate after a stellar performance at the Euros last year.

Rice grew up in Kingston, south London, to an Irish family and played three friendlies for Ireland in 2018 before controversially switching back to England.

He said it was England’s performance at the 2018 World Cup that convinced him to make the switch, when Southgate’s side lost out to Croatia in the semi-final.

Rice said: ‘Yeah, it was done then. We spoke about it so much but obviously growing up watching England in tournaments as well… You just feel the proper buzz, the effects and the desire of the country for the players to do well.’

The midfielder was released by Chelsea as a youngster before joining West Ham, but remains close friends with Mason Mount.

As well as his exploits on the pitch, Rice has also become reluctantly known for his double scream after being awoken from a deep sleep by Mount during a holiday in Dubai.

John Stones (defender) 

The Barnsley-born Manchester City defender is a regular fixture in England’s starting eleven since moving from Everton for £47.5m in 2016. 

He has admitted that he is yet to re-watch the full 90 minutes of England’s final defeat to Italy on penalties last year, but will likely feature at the heart of the defence as the Three Lions continue their search for a second major trophy.

Stones had a child with his childhood sweetheart Millie Savage, and even had a large tattoo of her drawn on his arm in December 2016 of her following accusations of cheating. But they are understood to have split in November 2018 and Stones is now with beautician Olivia Naylor.

The couple met on a night out through mutual friends in Manchester and the defender is said to have been undergoing work to remove the tattoo of his ex.

She has established a successful business in Manchester and has her own salon near her Cheshire home. 

Stones also has what is believed to be the face of Barnsley legend Norman Rimmington inked on his left thigh along with a further three faces.

Grealish may be a superstar footballing talent - but he's also drawn thousands of adoring fans for something else entirely - his calves!

Grealish may be a superstar footballing talent – but he’s also drawn thousands of adoring fans for something else entirely – his calves! 

Jack Grealish (winger/attacking midfielder) 

He might be heading out to Qatar to represent the Three Lions, but association football wasn’t Jack Grealish’s first love. 

In his youth the Brummie was a talented Gaelic footballer, and he was eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland thanks to his Irish grandparents. 

In 2012, he scored a point for his side, Warwickshire, at Croke Park – the spiritual home of the game – in an exhibition match at half-time during an All-Ireland quarter-final.

It was only when he started training with Aston Villa that he decided to dedicate himself full time to regular football. 

Grealish isn’t the only footballer in his family. His great-great-grandfather, Billy Garraty, won one cap for England and lifted the 1905 FA Cup with Villa. 

He also went to school with former City defender Aoife Mannion, who he also played Gaelic football against.

Grealish may be a superstar footballing talent – but he’s also drawn thousands of adoring fans for something else entirely – his calves. 

In fact Kevin Beresford, 70, of Redditch, Worcestershire, had gained the title of ‘Britain’s dullest man’ for selling an advent calendar with all 12 months dedicated entirely to the defined leg muscles of the England star…   

 Harry Maguire (defender) 

The man affectionately known as ‘slab head’ has become an integral part of Southgate’s England team despite inconsistent club form for Manchester United.

Leicester City striker and then teammate Jamie Vardy coined the nickname during the 2018 World Cup. 

Known for his heading ability on the pitch, Maguire was an A* student off it. His former deputy head teacher said that, if he had failed to make it in football, he would have ‘gone on to study business or maths and probably would have been an accountant’.

The defender comes from a talented family, too, with brothers Laurence playing for Chesterfield and Joe previously playing for a number of Football League clubs including Fleetwood Town and Tranmere Rovers.

Maguire, whose first name is actually Jacob, travelled to Euro 2016 in France as a fan before representing his country at the World Cup in Russia two years later.    

Nick Pope (goalkeeper) 

Newcastle star Nick Pope’s star is on the rise. The goalkeeper joined the Magpies for £10million in the summer from Burnley and his side have been flying in the Premier League this year, having most recently beat Chelsea.

Born in Cambridgeshire, he attended the private King’s School in Ely. He had previously attended St Andrew’s Primary School in Soham, and was a classmate of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, who were killed by Ian Huntley, a caretaker at Soham Village College.

Pope was let go by Ipswich as a teenager and, having achieved ‘average’ grades, decided to enrol in a local college with links to Bury Town.

England goalkeeper Nick Pope during a training session at the Al Wakrah Sports Club in Qatar today

England goalkeeper Nick Pope during a training session at the Al Wakrah Sports Club in Qatar today 

After joining Charlton and going on a series of loan spells, Pope joined Burnley, where he saw success under Sean Dyche. He is now enjoying life near the top of the Premier League table, with Saudi-owned Newcastle.

His wife is Shannon Horlock, who keeps an incredibly low profile. She met Burnley keeper Nick Pope in 2013.

On the couple’s three-year anniversary, Shannon posted on Facebook: ‘You make me feel happy, proud and loved every single day.’

Nick and Shannon prefer not to share much of their private life online, but it is thought they had a daughter together in 2019.

Jordan Pickford (goalkeeper) 

England’s Number 1, Jordan Pickford will be hungry for yet more success following his penalty heroics at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018.

The 28-year-old shot stopper helped England to the semi-finals of the last World Cup during a penalty shoot-out against Colombia. 

And while he will be hungry for shootout success, Pickford is also partial to a doner kebab pizza. The Sunderland-born star once shared an image of the takeaway on his Instagram.

And it prompted one local takeaway owner of Classic Pizza in his hometown of Concord in Washington to declare that he can have ‘free food for life’ after his 2018 World Cup display.

The Everton Number 1 is a father of one, to son Arlo, with his childhood sweetheart Megan Davison. The pair have been dating since she was 14 and he was 16 after meeting at school.

They went out on their first date to the cinema while he was a pupil at St Robert of Newminster Catholic School in their native Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Jordan Pickford with his wife, Megan. The couple are said to have met when they were just 14 years old, and she followed him to Liverpool following his transfer in 2017. Megan graduated from the University of Sunderland last year and has over 51,000 Instagram followers

Jordan Pickford with his wife, Megan. The couple are said to have met when they were just 14 years old, and she followed him to Liverpool following his transfer in 2017. Megan graduated from the University of Sunderland last year and has over 51,000 Instagram followers

Jordan Henderson (midfielder) 

Liverpool stalwart Jordan Henderson has racked up a fair few miles running round Anfield during his 11-year career at the club. 

But that won’t phase him! As a kid he was a keen cross country runner and also competed in the 100 and 1500 metres. 

Henderson, 32, grew up in Sunderland, where he managed to break into the youth team. 

He joined Liverpool in 2011 after a loan stint at Coventry City, and was part of their 2019 Champions League winning side. 

After the final in Madrid he dedicated his winner’s medal to his father, Brian, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 but didn’t tell his son to start with for fear of derailing his career. 

He has been one of the more visible LGBT supporters in football and two years ago was awarded a ‘Football Ally’ Award (along with Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp) at the British LGBT awards. 

Henderson has also been the face of Liverpool’s Rainbow Laces campaign. 

Off the field, his favourite meal is chicken pesto pasta and he eats eggs with blueberries for breakfast, he revealed in an interview. 

Raheem Sterling (winger/attacking midfielder) 

England star Raheem Sterling was born in Jamaica, in the Caribbean island’s capital city Kingston. 

He has spoken about his difficult upbringing, with his father dying when he was aged two after being murdered in a shooting. 

Explaining on Instagram why he now has a gun tattooed on his right leg, Sterling said: ‘I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun… I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning and still unfinished.’ 

Sterling’s family moved to London when he was two and he played for QPR growing up before signing as a youth player for Liverpool. 

Later, he swapped for Man City and now plays for Chelsea. Among his charity work, the footballer has launched initiatives trying to promote disadvantaged children in the area. 

After signing for Chelsea this year, he said he’d have no problem sitting down with the Chelsea fan who, in a notorious incident a few years ago, taunted him with racial abuse.

‘That’s something that I could do right here, right now, or tomorrow. That’s not an issue,’ Sterling told reporters. ‘I have no hatred or malice towards the individual.’

The supporter was banned for life for the vile abuse in December 2018 when Sterling was still at City.  

Raheem Sterling (middle) seen today in training with his England team mates during World Cup preparations in Qatar

Raheem Sterling (middle) seen today in training with his England team mates during World Cup preparations in Qatar 

Marcus Rashford (striker) 

Marcus Rashford has become well known for his charity work, including a campaign for the government to provide free school meals for kids over the summer holidays. 

Drawing on his own experience, the Utd star told how he relied on free school meals as a child and it had made a ‘massive, massive difference’ to his family. 

The campaign forced a major government u-turn, and saw Rashford awarded an MBE by Prince William. 

He also went on to be honoured at Sports Personality of the Year, where he received a ‘Panel Special Award’. 

Rashford has spoken about his childhood in Manchester, where he was raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to feed him. 

He was seven and still at primary school when he signed for United. 

The star employs and is advised by his two brothers, Dane and Dwaine.  

Marcus Rashford and fiancee Lucai Loi are pictured enjoying a jetski ride while on holiday in Barbados

Marcus Rashford and fiancee Lucai Loi are pictured enjoying a jetski ride while on holiday in Barbados

Kieran Trippier (defender) 

Kieran Trippier will be picking up the tab for his wife, three children, mum and three brothers to follow him in Qatar – but his biggest bill could yet be a fine from Bury Council.

It was during the last World Cup in Russia that killjoy council chiefs took offence to the defender’s parents erecting, in the front garden of their two-bedroom semi in Ramsbottom, a giant flag of St George bearing their son’s name.

Trippier’s childhood home had become a hub for family and friends to watch England’s journey to the last four, with the back garden transformed into a beer garden. So, will it be too cold this time around?

‘No, not really!’ the Newcastle captain told the Daily Mail’s Craig Hope.  

‘The council are probably still knocking from last time. They were saying, ‘Flag down!’ It was on a massive pole, about 25-30ft high. Nobody had complained, so I don’t know how they found out. But Dad didn’t take it down, so we had to pay the fine.’

Did he cover the cost? ‘Of course I did! The streets were full – my aunties, uncles, nana. It’s a proud moment for them because I never thought I’d get one cap, never mind nearly 40. And yes, we’ve still got the flag…’   

After growing up on a council estate, Trippier played football at school and went on to train for Manchester City. 

He’s enjoyed a successful England career so far and in 2018 famously scored the semi-final free kick against Croatia that gave England fans momentary hope of reaching a World Cup Final. 

Kalvin Phillips (midfielder) 

Kalvin Phillips made himself a household name last year when he became the toast of the nation with a magnificent man-of-the-match display in England’s 1-0 win against Croatia at Wembley.

But Covid restrictions meant he couldn’t celebrate the moment with loved ones, including his girlfriend, Ashleigh Behan, who he’s been with since he was 11. 

When his former club Leeds won promotion to the Premier League in 2020, they were all on hand to celebrate at the club’s Elland Road stadium and took it in turns to pose for pictures with the Championship trophy.

His late grandmother Val was also there – she died in February last year after a short illness and had been one of the first people Phillips called when he made the England squad for the first time last August.

One figure missing from the party that night was his father, Mark, who was serving a prison sentence at HM Prison Wealstun, which is just 350 yards from Leeds’s Thorp Arch training ground.

Phillips’ father is Jamaican and the midfielder was being linked with a call-up for the Caribbean nation as recently as 2020, before Gareth Southgate intervened and assured him that he had a pathway into the England fold. 

Phillips takes pride in his Jamaican heritage and has spoken powerfully about the Black Lives Matter movement. 

‘I think the way it’s grown and expanded from one country to another is incredible,’ Phillips said to the Yorkshire Evening Post. ‘I think I’m quite lucky, because not many people know that I’m black. If you don’t know me and you don’t know my family you won’t really know that I’m black.’ 

The 26-year-old signed for Manchester City earlier this year.  

Eric Dier and Anna Modler. The couple recently became engaged, just two months after they were publicly reported to be dating. The South African model has been a regular fan at recent Spurs games, showing her support for Eric and his team, and previously told pals she is smitten and may have found 'the one'

Eric Dier and Anna Modler. The couple recently became engaged, just two months after they were publicly reported to be dating. The South African model has been a regular fan at recent Spurs games, showing her support for Eric and his team, and previously told pals she is smitten and may have found ‘the one’

Eric Dier (defender/midfielder) 

He might be turning out for the Three Lions, but Eric Dier actually spent much of his early life in Portugal after moving there aged seven when his mother was offered a job with UEFA. 

Dier, his parents, Jeremy and Louise, and his five siblings spent a year living in the Algarve before moving to Lisbon, where the rising star was signed up as a youth player for Sporting Lisbon.

He then moved back to England in 2014 to sign for Tottenham. 

The 28-year-old has plenty of sporting pedigree in his family, with his father playing tennis professionally and his grandfather, Ted Croker, played for Charlton. 

Dier is dating South African model Anna Modler – who is the ex of former Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez.

Sadly, he recently revealed abuse at English football grounds has become so bad that some of his family no longer go to games.

The defender famously jumped into the crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium two and half years ago to confront a fan who was abusing his brother. 

Conor Coady (defender)

Conor Coady grew up around St Helens on Merseyside, where he said playing football with his friends gave him the happiest times of his life. 

At seven he signed for Liverpool’s academy, but still carried on playing with his schoolmates.

‘First it was Bleak Hill Primary School and then Rainford High School, both in St Helens. Liverpool never knew – well they probably did know because they always knew everything – but I loved every minute playing for my school with my mates,’ he told Englandfootball.com. 

‘It was great to play against other schools where you had mates and against people you knew. I played all the time to be honest even though I shouldn’t have.’ 

He’s now playing for Everton on loan from Wolves, and earlier this year spoke of his pride at working with Liverpool legend, Jamie Carragher, and Trent Alexander Arnold to raise £350,000 for young people at a star-studded gala. 

In 2021, he met a young fan who had been bullied and embraced him in a heartwarming video filmed by the Wolves Foundation. 

Everton defender Conor Coady and his wife Amie. The couple have three children and Mrs Coady frequently shares happy snaps of them at their father's matches

Everton defender Conor Coady and his wife Amie. The couple have three children and Mrs Coady frequently shares happy snaps of them at their father’s matches

Bukayo Saka (defender/midfielder) 

Bukayo Saka might be a model player, but he was a model student too. 

As a boy he’d have to travel from Greenford High School, Ealing, to Arsenal almost every night to train, but still managed to gain four A*s and three As in his GCSEs.

He’s a highly popular figure at Arsenal, and before Covid surprised club staff by volunteering to help out with some of the club’s community activities.

Off his own back, Saka was keen to set up a call with the club and his parents to see how they could be of assistance and aid Arsenal’s work in the local area.

According to the Daily Mail’s Adrian Kajumba: ‘Speak to anyone about Saka and it will not be long before his down-to-earth nature, the fact that he takes everything in his stride, is a great kid and the role his parents have played in his upbringing and instilling the right values, get mentioned.’

Saka is deeply religious and always credits God for any success he achieves. 

Trent Alexander Arnold (defender) 

Born in Liverpool and now playing for Liverpool FC, it’s fair to say Trent Alexander Arnold is Scouse through and through. 

But he’s also got an unlikely connection to deadly rivals Man Utd – with his maternal grandmother once going out with the club’s legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson!  

The Scot made the amusing revelation in his autobiography, which was released in 2013 shortly after his retirement. 

Trent has two brothers, Marcel and Tyler, the latter who now serves as his agent. 

He’s previously paid tribute to them and his parents, Michael and Dianne, saying they had sacrificed a lot to get him to where he is now. 

And it’s certainly paid off for the 24-year-old… 

Among many impressive stats, he was in Guinness World Records for 2020 FOR the most assists by a defender in a Premier League season. 

Among many impressive stats, Trent Alexander Arnold (pictured today) was in Guinness World Records for 2020 FOR the most assists by a defender in a Premier League season

Among many impressive stats, Trent Alexander Arnold (pictured today) was in Guinness World Records for 2020 FOR the most assists by a defender in a Premier League season

Mason Mount (midfielder) 

Chelsea star Mason Mount, 23, was this year branded ‘Britain’s most eligible bachelor’ in a front page story in Tatler magazine. 

The ‘perfectly chiseled’ midfielder was in a relationship with model Chloe Wealleans-Watts, 23, who he met back in 2017.

The pair have now split but it’s not known when they went their separate ways. When asked about his relationship status by Tatler, Mount said: ‘Football is my priority.’

Mount was born in Portsmouth to Pompey-mad parents, but signed for Chelsea in 2019 after two consecutive loan spells. 

He’s been best friends with fellow England international Declan Rice since childhood. 

Despite his current club he still supports Portsmouth, and has cited Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Nwankwo Kanu as his footballing heroes as a boy. 

Mason Mount, 23, (seen with Prince William at an award ceremony two days ago) was this year branded 'Britain's most eligible bachelor' in a front page story in Tatler magazine

Mason Mount, 23, (seen with Prince William at an award ceremony two days ago) was this year branded ‘Britain’s most eligible bachelor’ in a front page story in Tatler magazine

Phil Foden (midfielder) 

He’s one of England’s hottest young talents, gaining the nickname the ‘Stockport Iniesta’ thanks to his technical ability. 

Phil Foden has been at Manchester City since he was four, having been spotted by scouts when they came to his primary school. 

After rising up through the academy, he started for the first team in November 2017 aged just 17 and made his England debut in a 1-0 win in Iceland in September 2020. 

The 22-year-old is married to his childhood sweetheart, Rebecca Cooke, with whom he shares a young son. 

Earlier this year, a video emerged of Foden as a young boy criticising former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli. 

During an apparent trip to Italy with the City academy, the childhood prodigy was asked for his opinions on Balotelli.

‘He’s a good player but he’s got a bad attitude off the pitch,’ he said. 

The star is believed to have been aged 10 when the video was filmed.  

Fun: One WAG set to live aboard the MSC World Europa for a month include air hostess Georgina Irwin, 26, who is engaged to goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, 24

Banned: But while the wives and girlfriends of the football stars will lap up the luxury of the swanky ship, it's said that players won't be allowed on board as they are set to form their own strict Covid bubble elsewhere (Harry Maguire and Fern Hawkins pictured)

Living it up: Model Anna Modler, 24, who is dating defender Eric Dier, 28, is rumoured to be among those planning to stay on the luxury cruise liner

WAGs set to live aboard the vessel during the 2022 FIFA World Cup – which is taking place from 20 November to 18 December – include air hostess Georgina Irwin (left), 26, who is engaged to goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, 24, Phil Foden’s girlfriend Rebecca Cooke, 22, and Harry Maguire’s wife Fern (centre), 27, reported the publication. Pictured right, Model Anna Modler, 24, who is dating defender Eric Dier, 28, is rumoured to be among those planning to stay on the luxury cruise liner

Ben White (defender) 

Becoming an international football star looked very unlikely when Ben White, now 25, was a young boy. Between the ages of 18 months and eight, the Dorset-born youngster needed antibiotics due to a life-threatening illness. 

‘His immune system was not working,’ his mother, Carole, told The Athletic back in 2019. ‘If somebody sneezed, he would end up with pneumonia.’

He experienced adversity in his football career too, with Southampton sacking him from their academy at the age of 16. 

But this wasn’t going to stop the promising young footballer fulfilling his talents, and after being picked up by Brighton he quickly rose the ranks to make his first team debut in 2016. He went on to sign for Arsenal in 2021 for up to £50million.

Brighton’s head of player recruitment Mark Anderson puts much of his success down to his family background, including a dedicated mother.   

‘His mum did miles and miles and miles for hours and hours over the years with Ben, even when he was at Southampton,’ he said. ‘At Brighton she came to every single game – through the day, through the night. She followed every singe inch of what Ben was doing in the part of his development.’

Jude Bellingham (midfielder) 

He might now be one of England’s most exciting young prospects, but Jude Bellingham recently revealed he wasn’t even interested in football as a child.  

The 18-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise following his move from Birmingham City to Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2020 and is now one of the most sought-after talents in the game, with a price tag of around £100million.

His brilliant performances for club and country have caught the eye of Europe’s elite, including Real Madrid.

But Bellingham said he was initially not bothered about football and only became involved in the sport because of his dad Mark, who enjoyed a successful career as a non-league striker.

‘I was never really too interested in football,’ Bellingham said in an Xbox video interview. ‘It was something that I got dragged around to because my dad was a non-league player and a big fan of it.

‘One day it clicked and I just loved it – I went from strength to strength as a player. Dad was my hero. At the time there was Rooney and Robin van Persie was also really good, but for me my dad was the number one.’ 

James Maddison (midfielder) 

In 2013, aged 16, Maddison wrote on a tweet how a teacher had told him that day 'only one in a million make it as a footballer'

In 2013, aged 16, Maddison wrote on a tweet how a teacher had told him that day ‘only one in a million make it as a footballer’

Leicester City player James Maddison had his first break in football when he enrolled for the Coventry City academy aged just nine. 

At the time he was quite small but said playing in the midfield with much bigger kids helped him develop his technical skills. 

In a nod to his love of the game, the 25-year-old got a tattoo of himself playing football as a kid and another of the FA Cup after winning it. 

In 2013, aged 16, Maddison wrote on a tweet how a teacher had told him that day ‘only one in a million make it as a footballer’. 

‘I’m that one,’ he said. 

James Maddison and his girlfriend Kennedy Alexa. The couple began dating in 2020 and welcomed their son, Leo, in the summer of 2021. English-born Alexa is a model and Instagram influencer with 60,000 followers. She spent time in Los Angeles before settling down with Maddison in the UK

James Maddison and his girlfriend Kennedy Alexa. The couple began dating in 2020 and welcomed their son, Leo, in the summer of 2021. English-born Alexa is a model and Instagram influencer with 60,000 followers. She spent time in Los Angeles before settling down with Maddison in the UK

Aaron Ramsdale (goalkeeper)

Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale may owe some of his athletic talents to his parents, with his father competing for Great Britain as a 400m hurdler and his mother attending dancing trials for England. 

And his family’s impressive achievements don’t stop there, with his actor brother, Oliver, touring with the musical Dirty Dancing, while his other brother is a prison officer. 

Luckily, Ramsdale’s parents always supported his ambition of becoming a professional footballer – unlike his great-grandfather.

‘My dad’s dad was a goalkeeper and was offered terms by West Brom, Wolves, Aston Villa and Birmingham,’ Ramsdale told the AFC Bournemouth website. ‘But his dad said ‘no, you’ve got to get a proper job’.

‘The money back then wasn’t great and it wasn’t financially stable. He never got to play professionally and became a maths teacher and then a head teacher.’ 

The 24-year-old was born in Staffordshire where he attended Sir Thomas Boughey Academy near Newcastle under Lyme. 

While a schoolboy his potential to go far in the game was noted by his local paper, The Sentinel. 

Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale (seen today) may owe some of his athletic talents to his parents, with his father competing for Great Britain as a 400m hurdler and his mother attending dancing trials for England

Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale (seen today) may owe some of his athletic talents to his parents, with his father competing for Great Britain as a 400m hurdler and his mother attending dancing trials for England

Callum Wilson (striker) 

Newcastle’s Callum Wilson is another England star who experienced a tough childhood, with his father leaving at a young age. 

Wilson and his five siblings had to fend for themselves as their mother tried to support the family, forcing the upcoming star to ‘grow up fast’. 

‘I’d say quite a lot of my mental strength is to do with my upbringing,’ Wilson told the Telegraph. ‘Being not very fortunate in life, not having a lot to live on as a kid, having to work for everything you get. 

‘My dad wasn’t around. My mum had a difficult task of raising six kids on her own. 

Yeah, she made sacrifices, but I also had to fend for myself you know, bring myself up… I was the eldest sibling of the six. I was the responsible one.’

Connor Gallagher (midfielder) 

Chelsea’s Connor Gallagher grew up in Epson as one of three brothers – all of them Chelsea plans. 

Growing up, he went to Howard of Effingham School – which was also attended by Harry Potter star Tom Felton AKA Malfoy.

The 22-year-old has credited much of his grit to the summer of 2018 when he spent two months going through major heart surgery. 

The footballer felt his heart beating eerily fast on his return to pre-season training with Chelsea and later fell ill. 

 ‘It was quite a tough one-v-one session and it was too much for me,’ he told the Guardian.

‘I felt a bit dizzy and had to pull out of training and that’s when I got the checks, scans, and when they saw something was wrong.’  



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