Martin Smith column on skill, determination and luck

Flasback to FA Youth Cup Final action...Sheffield Utd v Man Utd...Blades Aaron Barry gets away from Jesse Lingard
Flasback to FA Youth Cup Final action...Sheffield Utd v Man Utd...Blades Aaron Barry gets away from Jesse Lingard
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Faith, sometimes that’s all it takes.

Patience, luck and a load of talent help as well but often it’s the faith of one man in a young player that can change everything.

In September, Sheffield Wednesday were reported to be looking to bring in Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard on loan.

Like so many promising youngsters at the Premier League’s top clubs he couldn’t find a regular first team squad place and had done the loan rounds at Birmingham, Brighton and Derby.

He was beginning to look like so many other well-fancied kids who never quite make the top grade.

Then United boss Louis Van Gaal has recently re-affirmed the belief he showed in Lingard when he picked him for his first Premier League game on the opening day of the season last year.

Tonight Lingard could pull on an England shirt for his first full international cap against France at Wembley.

What had looked like an inevitable loan-induced departure from Old Trafford is starting to become the beginning of a potentially glittering career.

Though it could still all end in tears.

Lingard obviously has the ability - but so do most of the lads who end up at Premier League clubs as trainees, they wouldn’t be there otherwise.

Sometimes their development stalls, sometimes, they lose focus and sometimes they play the wrong position at the wrong time to make the step up.

But usually it takes the continued faith of a coach or manager to help a player to establish himself and for other coaches and players to take notice.

Jamie Vardy at Leicester, Dele Alli now at Spurs could have played out their careers in the lower divisions or with non-league clubs.

Despite how obvious their talent looks now it took personal perseverance and the faith and patience of coaches and managers to get them where they are today.

There will be players we have never heard of watching England tonight who lined up alongside Lingard, Vardy or Alli earlier in their careers and were thought to be better players.

But those three will be in the dressing room at Wembley tonight instead of watching the game in the pub with their mates.

Ability isn’t everything, non-league football is littered with occasional genius.

Consistency, courage, dedication and continual development are what makes a top player.

But a lucky break or two and the faith of a manager are just as important.