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Published 02 December 2022 9 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Jude Bellingham's grassroots story: From just wanting to pick grass to starring for England at the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Written by:

Jude Bellingham

Midfielder discusses how he initially didn't want to play football before catching the bug at Stourbridge Juniors and going on to break records for Birmingham City, Borussia Dortmund and England

My first memories of football are going to watch my dad when he played non-league football on a Saturday and also on Sundays. 

My first memories of playing personally would be Saturday mornings when my dad and some other people would be coaching and trying to get me into football but I just wasn’t having it. 

I'd just go there and would love the bib games like cat and mouse – honestly, I loved them – but when the football started, I was just picking grass for about an hour. Literally, my mum was about to say ‘you don't want to do it so stop taking him’ but then all of a sudden it just clicked and I got the bug about the age of six.

Then I started wanting loads of kits and playing football became all I ever wanted to do. You hear of kids and they're playing football around the age of three but I was never interested. At that age I couldn't think of anything worse than going out in the cold but fair to say it's changed now!

I started playing for my Sunday league team Stourbridge Juniors around the age of seven and my dad was the coach. I played with a lot of my mates from school, so it was quite competitive and I think that's probably where my competitiveness now comes from but it was also a good laugh because I was just with all my mates. 

It was good having my Dad but to be fair, he never really tried to like coach me too much, like the fundamentals and stuff like that. He always just said to me ‘go and have fun and try your best’. 

His thing was if you're going to do anything, do it as best as you can, whether it was school, football or anything.

When he dropped me off to football or when we'd have a game when he was the coach, he would just say ‘have fun and play with a smile but go and give it 100%’. That's all he ever said to me to be fair. He never said ‘Oh, can you pass it here? What about this kind of dribble?’

That is the thing that sticks with me all the time. Even when I’m in games now and I'm losing, all I think is no matter what, you don't give up.

Because I was into football as my brother Jobe was growing up, because I'd have been about seven and he would have been four or five, he'd come and watch me play quite a lot. I think he caught the bug from watching me and Dad and he got proper into it and started learning about football. He'd look at Google and books and even now, his football knowledge is crazy – for example he could name all the Champions League winners since 1965 and stuff like that and give you details about the final.

I was always really competitive with Jobe. We played a lot together and a lot of it ended in tears and fights, but then the next day we'd just make up and go again.

I'm so proud of my brother. That's the thing, I never want to sit down with him and say ‘Ah, you should have passed to him’ or anything like that. Obviously, we'll talk about the game and so on but all I ever say to him is ‘just go and enjoy it and have fun’ because he's at his best when he has fun. 

I want to see him do really well and I just want to see him do everything that he wants to do, really. Anything that he dreams of, I hope it all comes true.

22 Nov 2022 39:02

Jude Bellingham on Lions' Den With M&S Food

Midfielder takes part in our daily show, which includes a chat with his former coach Mike Dodds

I also played football for my school teams growing up and I played right until I left school around the age of 15. I never really missed school games because that was like the last chance I could play without any sort of pressure around who would be watching. I played with my mates but it was still competitive. I would score loads of goals so it made me feel good and I always wanted to play for the school team because I found it a real laugh.

I went to Hagley Primary and we got to the Nationals in my last year, with it being played at Villa’s training ground. It was a good experience because I don't think the school had been there before or since. We went out in the group stage, I think by one goal on goal difference, and I remember being gutted afterwards. But I suppose it's all character-building.

After that, I went to Priory School in Edgbaston and we did some pretty good things there as well, like won a couple of cups. One of them was a national competition and I had to miss the final through injury. Even though I was playing for Birmingham at the time, I was still so annoyed!

Playing for your school is just really fun. You get to play with your mates and you get to win. There's nothing better than that really.

Looking back, I think if I had a dad that didn't play football, I probably would never have got into football really, because there was nothing there for me that motivated me to play at the start. 

And then I have my mum who has taught me more about life outside football, but it merges quite well. And even some of the stuff that my mum has taught me, I do take it on to the pitch, about staying calm, staying cool, being a good example to my team-mates and trying to lead and stuff like that. I think a lot of that comes from my mum because she's a very good leader.

My mum has moved to Germany with me and the role my mum is playing is massive. I think at the minute it is probably the biggest role of anyone, even probably more than my coaches and managers to be honest.  

That’s because playing football is one thing and it's easy for me because whenever I'm on the pitch, I feel free. But it is the off-the-pitch stuff that comes with being a footballer that I probably don't like as much, like the attention and people always wanting to bring you down and stuff like that - obviously that is not everyone because I get a lot of support from other people. 

But my mum is there to just keep everything neutral really. Without my mum, sometimes I'd get too low with the lows or too high with the highs and I stay pretty humble because I've got her around. It’s also great to have her there because she’s a great laugh as well. We get on so well and we're always doing stuff together.

It's quite tough being away from my dad and brother at times, especially the days like when Jobe made his Birmingham City debut. I had a game the same day and I've come in and all I can do is see it on Google or an app. They are the kind of days that you wish you were there with them because I feel bad because my brother was there for my debut and stuff like that. 

I don't like it to be honest but I've got business to take care of elsewhere and he knows I'm supporting him - I just wish I could be there a bit more because when I’m there, we have a laugh.

I just love being with him. I can't wait to see him whenever I'm not with him. We all just get on really well.

People often ask about the coaches who have influenced my career and I think of Mike Dodds immediately, to be fair. He was probably my most influential coach in the Birmingham Academy, so him, Kristjaan Speakman and Simon Jones. I think they are probably the three biggest, who had the biggest impact on me for different reasons, whether it was football or off-the-pitch stuff. 

Then obviously when I went to Dortmund, you have people like Otto Addo, Edin Terzic, Marco Rose and Rene Maric. I think those guys do different roles because I was at different points in my journey when I met them. But they are all people that I would think of.

When I look back now, to those early days in grassroots football, I just think of fun. It's like you are never worried about the pressure are you? You just turn up and play and there's no pressure on you. You just have fun. 

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