Eric Dier believes England have a lot to thank Mauricio Pochettino for as, unlike many Premier League managers, the Tottenham head coach is not hamstrung by “fear” when it comes to giving young players a chance.
Since arriving at Southampton in January 2013, the former Argentina international has embraced young home-grown talent like no other top-flight boss.
Pochettino has helped nurture 10 of the last 18 newly-capped England players, including the likes of Harry Kane, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne.
All three featured in Tuesday’s 2-0 win against France – a match which saw his latest young talents make their first international starts.
Dele Alli repaid the faith with a goal and man-of-the-match performance, while Tottenham team-mate Dier continued to impress in defensive midfield having been converted into the role by Pochettino over the summer.
“If you’d told me that in the summer that I would make my debut as a midfielder, I’d have thought you were crazy,” the latter said with a laugh.
“I think the manager was probably the only one who believed it at the beginning of the year and hopefully I have proved a lot of people wrong.
“I am really pleased the manager (Roy Hodgson) gave me a chance and hopefully I took it. That’s what you’ve got to do when you get chances.”
However, chances are often few and far between for young English talent in the Premier League, making Pochettino’s impact all the more impressive.
“Our club manager is giving young English players a chance and if you take it then I guess that’s where you can end up,” Dier said.
“I think that’s what all us young Spurs boys have been doing.
“I think maybe he just doesn’t have the fear that other managers have in giving people a chance, you know?
“I think if we then didn’t take our chance, then we probably wouldn’t be where we are now.
“He has no fear in giving you a chance, but then it is obviously up to the player to take it.”
Dier arrived at Spurs last summer from another club happy to put their trust in youth, Sporting Lisbon, whose youth system he came through.
It is a learning experience the 21-year-old reflects on positively, so too the chance to go to Euro 2004 as a fan growing up in Portugal.
Now, 11 and a half years on, Dier could well find his way playing at a European Championship, although the defensive midfielder is not getting ahead of himself.
“I am sure that’s what the manager wants, problems,” he said of young talent pushing the more experienced squad members.
“Hopefully we have given him some and us young lads have just got to keep pushing.
“I am sure more experienced players will be worried about that and they’ll keep pushing.
“It is just a matter of keep going and see what happens. I just try my best and see where that takes me.”
It will mark quite the rise for Dier, who a few months ago missed out on the England squad for the Under-21 European Championship.
John Stones was amongst those preferred but suffered concussion just before the first match.
Everton rejected a transfer request from the 21-year-old amidst interest from Chelsea, but the former Barnsley defender responded strongly to that disappointment.
Stones was coy when asked about that period, only saying his focus always remained on football, but was more forthcoming when asked about Roberto Martinez’s suggestion he could one day captain England captain.
“To be honest, I smile at first and probably forget about it the next day, which is a good thing, so it doesn’t play on my mind as much,” he said.
“It is so humbling to hear that, from my manager, and from a lot of peers that say it as well, and hopefully in the future it can come true.”
Have something to tell us about this article?