Interview: Wolves' Morgan Gibbs-White on his World Cup win: "It's been crazy"
So far in 2017 Morgan Gibbs-White has made his professional debut aged 16, played eight times for the first team...and won the Under-17 World Cup with England.
Whatever the Wolves midfielder achieves in what could be a long and successful career this has been the perfect start – and a year he’ll never forget.
Last month the youngster helped inspire England to a remarkable 5-2 comeback against Spain in the World Cup final in India, scoring the second goal as England came from 2-0 down, following earlier victories over Japan, USA and Brazil.
It led to wild celebrations at full time in front of 65,000 people and millions more watching live on BBC2 back home.
“Words can’t describe how I felt,” Gibbs-White told the Express & Star. “It was the best experience in my life.
“Before the game we had nerves, butterflies, everything was going through our heads thinking ‘are we going to lose, are we going to win, will it go to penalties?’.
“But our main focus was just to get it right from the start.
“We didn’t really think about (the big interest back home) too much. We were thinking who are we doing this for – for the people that put the effort in, for me and the team, the people who’ve got us here today.”
For Gibbs-White those people include his father Kirk and Wolves academy boss Gareth Prosser, who were both in Kolkata to watch him lift the trophy.
“My dad’s been a massive influence on me, he’s my number one fan” Gibbs-White said.
“Gareth and my dad have supported me everywhere I’ve gone, all around the world.
“They came out for the group stages, then both went home to work back in England then flew out for the semis and the final.
“My dad came back to the hotel after the game and we celebrated there. I gave him a hug and said thank you for all the things you’ve done for me.”
Gibbs-White speaks with humility and maturity for someone so young. But then perhaps you’d expect nothing less from a teenager who Wolves have worked so hard to nurture since he joined the academy aged just eight.
The 17-year-old is one of a number of talented youngsters to emerge from Wolves’ Compton Park base in recent years and many at the club believe he has the best chance of the lot of making it as a future star.
He’s certainly laying the foundations now.
Gibbs-White, who was named Wolves' academy player of the year in May, said he and his England team mates always had belief they could win the tournament – although admitted it was hard being away from home for so long.
“It was 35 days, it killed me!” he said. “I missed everyone back home, my mum, my sisters and brothers. But it was good to have my dad with me so I didn’t have to miss home that much.
“There was some boredom but us striving and knowing we could win the World Cup kept us going.
“They’re crazy for football in India, most games were nearly full. The atmosphere was unbelievable, like nothing I’ve played in before.
“We started off in Mumbai and we struggled because of the heat and humidity, everyone was dead!
“Then as we got into the group stages in Kolkata we slowly built our way into it and got used to the weather and playing with each other again.
"I think we always had the belief from the start we could win but it was really putting the work in on and off the pitch that really mattered.
“There’s some very good players in that team. Phil Foden for Manchester City, he’s a player. Rhian (Brewster), I always have a good link-up with him.
“It’s weird going there and being the only one from the Championship, there’s only Steven (Sessegnon, from Fulham) as well but it’s not a big deal for me.
“If you work hard we’ve all got the ability to do what we do on the pitch.
"(My first team experience) was the key thing for me. When we went 2-0 down against Spain I sort of got all the boys together and said we’re comfortable in possession here so let’s get a goal back and we’ll win this.”
That they did – and since their return from India at the start of last week Gibbs-White has been inundated with messages of congratulations.
It's something he may have to get used to if his career trajectory takes the path that everyone hopes.
“It’s been crazy, non-stop,” he added. “I haven’t even had time to rest yet.”
“It’s sunk in now but even when we were flying back it hadn’t sunk in until I got home, saw my family and thought ‘wow it’s actually happened’. It’s crazy. I’m back down to earth now.
Does he mind the attention? “I just try to be as nice as I can, even though it might be a bit frustrating at times. I just try and get on with it and put a smile on.
“It doesn’t really bother me if I get attention or not, it’s nice to know I’m doing well but it’s also about kicking on and concentrating on what’s here.”
‘Here’ is Compton Park, where Gibbs-White will now have to put the long, hard hours in if he’s to force his way into Nuno Espirito Santo’s first-team picture, especially with the side flying at the top of the Championship.
As he reflects on what’s been a wonderful year – even accounting for a summer injury that threatened his World Cup involvement – the confident but grounded 17-year-old has his sights firmly set on making quick progress with Wolves.
“(In the past year) I’ve made my debut for such a big club like Wolves, then progressing even though I got a setback from injury I came back stronger and won the World Cup with England," he said.
“I just want to thank all the Wolves fans that have supported me from back when I first made my debut and throughout.
“And a big mention to all the coaches and physio staff. They’ve had the belief in me to get back fit for the World Cup.
“I’ve already put it to one side now and I’m focusing on first team football here and trying to push through.
“Personally my targets would be to progress through the first team, try and get on the bench or make a start, try and play some cup games.
“Hopefully I can carry on the way I played in the World Cup and bring it here.”