Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrated a “dream come true” after receiving a first England call that will take him to this summer’s World Cup.
The 19-year-old started the season as third choice right-back at Liverpool but a combination of his own impressive form and the fitness problems of Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez propelled him into centre stage.
Not only is he set to start the Champions League final against Real Madrid later this month, he is now heading to Russia despite his only senior experience coming when he was invited to join a session at St George’s Park in March.
Posting to his 195,000 Twitter followers – a number he can now expect to multiply exponentially – he wrote: “Dreamt of going to a World Cup since I was a kid. Today that dream come true, an honour to represent the 3 Lions this summer! @England.”
England’s record cap holder, Peter Shilton, expects the tournament to test the teenager in ways he has not experienced before.
“Alexander-Arnold doesn’t look over fazed by any occasion but saying that, the World Cup is a bit special,” he told Sky Sports News.
“It’s really a test, it’s pressure. You know the whole world and whole country is looking at you, not just your club.”
Southgate has pressed ahead with a fresh-faced goalkeeping unit having dispensed with long-term number one Joe Hart in a difficult phone call on Monday night.
His chosen triumvirate of Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and uncapped Burnley stopper Nick Pope boast a total of nine international appearances to Hart’s 75.
Pickford has just two friendly games under his belt but is favourite to take the gloves in Russia.
“The first piece of the jigsaw is complete in getting on the plane and the next thing is to get the starting shirt,” the 24-year-old told evertonfc.com.
“If I play I will be the youngest goalkeeper for England at a World Cup, which would be an achievement. I played under (Southgate) for the under-21s, so he knows what I am capable of. There is already trust there.”
Clarets boss Sean Dyche, who has also provided James Tarkowski and Tom Heaton to the standy list, was delighted for Pope – who had several loan spells in non-league football and had not played Premier League football until September.
“We can use all the words we want, but it’s the marvel of football sometimes and Nick’s is a great story,” Dyche told his club’s official website.
“What a season Nick has had and to be in the main squad speaks for itself in terms of the season he’s had.”
But the lack of international experience between the posts left 73-cap veteran Sol Campbell anxious.
“I’ve never been in a situation like that in my life playing for England,” he told Sky Sports News. “If I had someone behind me with only two caps, playing in a massive tournament I’m going to be saying ‘I’ve got my work cut out’.”
While Alexander-Arnold was on cloud nine, there was disappointment for his Reds team-mate Adam Lallana.
Southgate is an avowed fan of the versatile midfielder but left him among the five standby players after he was confined to a solitary Premier League start all season.
Dennis Wise, who failed to make the cut for Euro ’96, agreed with that decision.
“He’s been out a long time and it would have been a bit unfair to some of the guys who have played the whole season and performed in a good way,” he said. “That would have been harsh.”
After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we're off to the World Cup! 🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/JOCj5oBCtN— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) May 16, 2018
There were heart-warming messages from other squad members, notably Manchester United pair Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young.
Striker Rashford sent a message to his mother after his inclusion, saying on Twitter: “After years of you standing on the touch line in the cold and rain, Mum we’re off to the World Cup!”
Young, who spent four years in the international wilderness before being recalled by Southgate in November, posted a snap of himself as a child in full England kit.
Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup... dreams do come true 👀😊🤘🏾🦁 pic.twitter.com/kSM8VORdp0— Ashley Young (@youngy18) May 16, 2018
“Maybe this picture said I was gonna live my dream and go to a World Cup… dreams do come true,” he wrote.
Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, whose position was never in doubt, took a more light-hearted stance.
Posting a screenshot of his phone with the words ‘Gareth Southgate missed call’ emblazoned across the face, he tweeted: “The one call you don’t want to miss.”
Leicester defender Harry Maguire, meanwhile, posted a picture of himself wearing the Three Lions in the stands at Euro 2016, commenting: “2 years ago watching @England in France with my mates. “Now on the plane to Russia. How things have changed.”