Kieran Trippier has always idolised David Beckham, and studied the set-piece delivery of Andrea Pirlo, yet it is a defender who spent seven years at Oldham who has had the greatest impact on his career.
Trippier, 27, has emerged as arguably England’s best player at the tournament, and has already been talked of as the best right-back at this World Cup. His ability at corners and free-kicks has largely been hidden by Christian Eriksen’s superiority at Tottenham, but have been England’s most potent outlet out in Russia. Not so much Bend It Like Beckham as Twist It Like Trippier.
While anyone who has hit so much as a half-decent set-piece since the mid 2000s refers to the influence of Beckham or Pirlo, Trippier revealed his older brother, Kelvin Lomax, was the footballer he always wanted to emulate. Beckham spent his childhood kicking a ball around a field near his house alone, but Trippier had his brother, four years his senior, to knock about with.
“I just played with my brother because when I was younger my brother was playing for Oldham, he was in League One and League Two, and he’s the one I looked up to,” Trippier said ahead of tomorrow’s quarter-final against Sweden.
“I used to go and watch him every week, watching his training sessions at Oldham, playing there, kicking it against the wall. I just looked up to my brother because he was a professional and he was the one I wanted to follow.
“Unfortunately, he is not playing now but he’s the one who has helped me a hell of a lot. He was a full-back. He was a right-back and left-back. He played a few games in the Football League and he’s had a big impact on my career.”
Trippier’s career, like so many of Gareth Southgate’s England squad, has not had a straight, upward trajectory to success. At nine-years-old, he joined Manchester City’s academy, where the quality of his crossing was worked on endlessly with youth coach Steve Eyre, who he still speaks to every week and was a guest at his wedding, in June 2016.
“My delivery is something I always used to work on,” Trippier said. “Me and Steve used to stay behind for ages after more or less every session. You can always improve on everything, and crossing was the one I really wanted to work on.
“At Platt Lane in the youth team we just used to stay out and practice and practice. There are a lot of people I need to thank for my journey to get here and he’s one of them.
“I used to watch Beckham and Pirlo, players like this, over their careers – they have got a fantastic right foot on them and everyone knows that. Beckham was the one I always looked up to – the technique, his crossing, on the move or set pieces. He’s the one I used to look up to on crossing the ball.”
As a teenager, Trippier was a winger, and competed in athletics for his schools, particularly in running, hence the lungs to get up and down the right flank all match long. Yet despite signing his first professional contract at City and joining the first team on a preseason tour of America in 2010, it did not work out. Loan spells at Barnsley and Burnley turned into a permanent move to the latter, where he established himself as a standout full-back and earned the move to Spurs three years ago.
Now he is starring for England at a World Cup, where only Brazil’s Neymar, with 16, and Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, on 13, have created more chances than Trippier’s 12. “Somebody mentioned that to me – not bad for a Bury lad!” he said. “The formation is perfect for me – I can get forward as much as I can and try to get the crosses in and help my team as much as I can. If I manage to help them I am delighted.”
Dele Alli, meanwhile, is fully fit to face Sweden tomorrow but Southgate will make late calls on the rest of his injured players.
Alli, who missed two group matches after straining his thigh in the opening game against Tunisia, still had his thigh strapped during the last-16 match against Colombia and appeared to struggle at times. “I think the extra couple of days were really helpful for him,” Southgate said.
Striker Jamie Vardy is increasingly unlikely to be ready to face Sweden, however, due to the groin problem he picked up against Colombia.
Ashley Young, who was substituted in Tuesday’s match with an ankle issue, and Kyle Walker, who had severe cramp, will be assessed today.