The 2018 World Cup finished in disappointment for England, to a degree. A summer of hope and optimism was finally undone by the harsh truth that our youthful squad were not quite good enough.
It was a kind way to go out, the extra time defeat against Croatia. There were no villains missing penalties like Waddle and Pearce in 1990 or indeed manager Gareth Southgate as a player in 1996. The players exited bravely, beaten fair and square without accusations of bottling it or effigies of individuals being hung from lampposts across the country.
Some players became household names when before the tournament they were barely known. Tottenham Hotspur perhaps benefitted most of all in the increased exposure of their players, but one stood out from the rest.
A 27-year old fullback with a devil-may-care attitude and a wicked right foot stole the headlines. Kieran Trippier is a time-served apprentice with Manchester City and looked set for an unremarkable career after loan spells with Barnsley and Burnley.
The latter took him on a permanent deal in 2012. At the time, Turf Moor hosted Championship football and he was nothing more than a second-tier right back. Having earned England honours up to U21 level, his progression was seemingly halted by the move to the Clarets.
He played three full seasons in the Championship before earning promotion with Burnley, then a full year in the Premier League where he began to catch the eye. A £3.5m move to Tottenham Hotspur followed, at first a fairly unremarkable one.
As Roy Hodgson’s England misfits frittered away any chance of success in Euro 2016, Trippier watched on at home having played just six Premier League games. The following season as qualification for the World Cup got underway, he featured 12 times.
The fourth of those outings came in March, as Spurs beat Southampton 2-1. Rather ironically, he replaced Kyle Walker in the 78th minute of the game, a player he would later feature with in an England shirt.
He started the next game, a 2-0 victory against his old side Burnley and that started him off on a journey that would lead to immortality in footballing circles. He was virtually ever- present until the end of the season, earning a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad for a qualifier with Scotland and a friendly against France. He missed the Scotland game, but played 76 minutes as a young England side lost 3-2 to their cross-channel neighbours.
Kyle Walker left for Manchester City in the summer, a fee of £47m making him one of the most expensive defenders ever. In his place, a £3.5m capture from Burnley remained, hopeful of not being replaced and discarded after a promising two seasons with the North Londoners.
Instead, it was Trippier’s breakthrough season, a campaign that saw him make 21 Premier League starts. He saw some Champions League action, too, as Spurs surprised everyone by qualifying for the knockout stages, only to lose to Juventus on aggregate.
Trippier played in the last Champions League game, a 2-1 defeat at Wembley, but his heroics will surely see him feature more this season. Spurs and Trippier are ahead of Dortmund, Napoli and Roma in the latest odds for this season’s competition with Oddschecker, but with his growing reputation, those numbers may shorten even further.
He earned an October call-up for the qualifier with Lithuania, his only competitive appearance in an England shirt before the tournament kicked off in the summer. Friendly outings against Germany, Holland, Italy, Nigeria and Costa Rica followed, accompanied by a surprise call-up to the full squad.