Five and a half years ago, a boy from Milton Keynes made his professional football debut. Tonight, Dele Alli will take to the field in Russia as one of England’s big hopes in the quest to lift the World Cup.
CLICK THE GALLERY LINK ABOVE TO SEE DELE ALLI’S RISE FROM MILTON KEYNES BOY TO ENGLAND MAN
Securing promotion to the Championship with MK Dons back in 2015 brought down the curtain on Dele Alli’s time with his hometown club in spectacular fashion.
The 19-year-old was sold to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur having taken the footballing world by storm during his 18 months in Dons’ first team.
Having started as a ball-boy and then come through the youth system to play in the first team, the tributes were ringing in Alli’s ears when he departed for Spurs.
“He’s a terrific young lad, and he’s come through our system... he is the poster of what we want to achieve,” purred captain Dean Lewington at the time.
Manager Karl Robinson added: “Dele has moved on to bigger and better things. He’s got a move for millions and helped the club up. He’s certainly done that.
“Good luck to him for everything he wants to go on and achieve.”
Achieve he has, starring for Spurs in their meteoric rise under Mauricio Pochettino and scoring goals regularly in the Premier League and - as a brace against the mighty Real Madrid testifies - the Champions League too.
Alli’s debut came in a turgid 0-0 away at Cambridge City, coming on after 64 minutes to replace Jay O’Shea.
But his first touch was a back-heel, drawing a wry smile from his manager Karl Robinson - the man who waxed lyrical about the youngster long before he eventually gave him the nod at the age of 16.
Five and a half years on, Alli is a fully fledged England international and key to Gareth Southgate’s hopes as a leading man in a youthful England side.
He has racked up more appearances now for Tottenham than he made at MK Dons, finishing in the top three in the Premier League in both of his two seasons in the top flight.
He has played in the European Championships for England, an FA Cup semi final with Spurs and netted 39 goals for his side along the way.
Now he takes to the biggest stage of them all, the World Cup where heroes and villains are made.
Let’s hope it is Dele’s destiny to carve out his own bit of history as the former.