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26th Jun 2018

World Cup Comments: Everyone needs a Jesse Lingard in their lives, and their team

Jesse Lingard is - in an age where a good number of English footballers appear media-trained to within an inch of their lives - good, clean fun

Simon Lloyd

Jesse Lingard boils piss

He shouldn’t, but he just… does.

You know what’s meant by this, too. The Milly Rocking, the Instagram posts, that dance where he pretends to play a flute. Even the bit of footage showing him dicking around with a rolled-up sock on the subs’ bench seemed to make some people – many of which are actual grown men with jobs and mortgages and families – angry. Really, really unnecessarily angry.

But come on. Isn’t it time, ladies and gentlemen (or just gentlemen if you’ve attended the Jason Cundy School Of Who Should Be Allowed To Talk About Football), to just accept it? Hell, maybe even embrace it.

Yes, yes it is.

Lingard turns 26 in December – a bit older than a lot of people seem to think he is. Part of this confusion is down to his relatively late arrival in the Manchester United first team, where he finally managed to establish himself after loan moves to Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and then Derby.

Since then, well, he’s been doing alright.

Jose Mourinho clearly seems to rate him, and he’s rewarded this faith by bagging 13 goals for United this past season – comfortably a career best. Gareth Southgate obviously likes him too, which is why he found himself scoring at a World Cup for England against Panama (disclaimer: yes, we know “it’s only Panama”) on Sunday afternoon.

Of the six England goals, Lingard’s was the easiest on the eye by a safe distance. This wasn’t difficult. Two came from poorly defended set-pieces; another two from penalties (one of which was won by Lingard); the other came off Harry Kane’s arse. Still… Picking the ball up on England’s left, he scampered goalward and exchanged a one-two with Raheem Sterling. Allowing himself a touch for control, he curled home from the edge of the D. He’d cut through Panama like a man-made waterway. Badum-tish.

Off he went, marking the occasion with a Fortnite-inspired dance, riling each and every one of those same aforementioned grown men with jobs and mortgages and families once more.

But seriously though: get over it. All of you. If it’s your tribalistic allegiance to a club that sees Manchester United as a rival, strip it away for a few seconds and keep reading.

In a footballing sense, he’s good. Not exactly with the Neymars and Ronaldos and Barcelona-version-Messis of this world, but he is a very decent footballer who’s come a long way in the last few years. Ex-pros will talk up his game management and intelligence just as Rio Ferdinand did in the post-game analysis on Sunday. The rest of us mere mortals can admire the impressive portfolio of nice looking goals he’s putting together, or perhaps just his willingness to run his arse off for his team’s cause every time he takes to the field.

More importantly though, Jesse Lingard is – in an age where a tidy number of high-profile English footballers still appear painfully dull and media-trained to within an inch of their lives – good, clean fun.

Here is a lad who, despite many folk doubting whether he’d ever be big or strong enough, has made it to the top and is living his fucking dream – both for his boyhood club and his national side. The quirky celebrations, his almost child-like enthusiasm, are merely his way of expressing that he bloody well loves the position in which he finds himself. Look at it from this point of view and it’s uplifting; something to be admired.

As we keep hearing, they’re a likeable bunch, this crop of England players. But in Lingard they have something which plenty of recent Three Lions sides have lacked: a genuine personality, seemingly completely undaunted by media perception. Without it, perhaps things wouldn’t be quite so much fun.