Brighton’s uncrowned defender Ben White has been included in England’s provisional 33-man squad for the European Championship.
The 23-year-old selection by national team manager Gareth Southgate follows an impressive debut season in the Premier League.
Here, the PA News Agency highlights seven things you might not know about the ball-playing center-back.
“Booted out” by Southampton
Born in Poole, Dorset in October 1997, White’s first steps into professional football were taken just along the south coast in Southampton. He joined a successful academy that helped launch the careers of Alan Shearer, Theo Walcott, Wayne Bridge, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as Welsh striker Gareth Bale. But, in his own words, he was ‘kicked out’ by 16-year-old Saints in 2014, before rebounding from the rejection by seizing the opportunity for a try with then-league club Brighton.
Rapid rise of the lender
White is set to make an international debut after playing in four different divisions over the past four seasons. He was hailed as Newport’s biggest loan signing by Exiles manager Michael Flynn after playing for the club in League Two in 2017-18. He spent the second half of the following campaign with League One Peterborough and was then still there for Leeds in their 2019-20 league title-winning squad. White only made his Premier League debut in September – Brighton’s 3-1 home loss to Chelsea – and missed just two top-level matches throughout the campaign, capping a remarkable rise.
Each of England’s three group matches for Euro 2020, as well as two matches of the last 16, the two semi-finals and the final, will take place at Wembley. White has played at the national stadium before, albeit under very different circumstances. During their stint with Newport – which White chose before joining Brighton neighbors Crawley in order to get out of his comfort zone – the South Wales club were drawn against Tottenham in the FA Cup. A 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade forced a fourth-round replay at Spurs’ temporary home at Wembley. White played the first 77 minutes of the 2-0 defeat in north London in front of a crowd of nearly 39,000, including more than 7,000 traveling fans.
If White continues to impress Southgate, he could quickly become Brighton’s most capped English player. Only four other Seagulls players represented the Three Lions, winning just six caps combined. Lewis Dunk – White’s current teammate – made his debut in 2018 but has since been overlooked, while club record scorer Tommy Cook and Peter Ward each have singles caps, won in 1925 and 1980 respectively. former defenseman Steve Foster leads the way on the Sussex side. He collected three caps in 1982 under Ron Greenwood, including a World Cup outing that year.
Whether White stays there to write this little piece of history is another matter. He has been linked on several occasions with a move from the Amex Stadium, with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Italian club Roma among those reportedly interested. White has three more years on the contract he signed in September to fend off the interests of the former Leeds loan club and would not be cheap. Brighton boss Graham Potter has likened White to a new £ 25million signing at the start of the season and, given the growth in his status since, recent reports suggesting the Seagulls will now demand twice as much. this figure may not be unrealistic.
Prefers paddleboarding to football
White recently revealed that her earliest soccer memory urged her mother to “hit the goal” in the garden as she tried to wash up. Today he escapes the pressures of professional football by trying to avoid the subject in his spare time. He rarely talks about the game at home and admits not watching the games on TV. In a further attempt to break free from the demands of football, he is making the most of his presence on the south coast and has started paddle boarding at sea.
Compared to Ferdinand and Stones
White’s calm and confidence in the field goes hand in hand with a confident personality. Also capable of operating in a defensive midfield, he is accomplished in possession, has a good sense of position and is unlikely to panic under pressure. He made the leap to the elite in his stride, describing it as “not massively different” and “a football game at the end of the day”. Athletic, courageous and an excellent passer, White’s style of play has been compared to fellow England international John Stones, as well as former Three Lions defender Rio Ferdinand.
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