Former Brighton player just 90 minutes away from World Cup final

Jesse Lingard in action for Brighton in 2014. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst
Jesse Lingard in action for Brighton in 2014. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst

Former Albion loanee Jesse Lingard is just 90 minutes away from a World Cup final as attentions turn to England's semi-final clash with Croatia tomorrow evening.

The Manchester United midfielder has featured in all but one of Gareth Southgate's starting line-ups during the tournament in Russia, while scoring a goal-of-the-tournament contender in England's 6-1 win over Panama in the group stages.

Lingard, 25, has made significant strides since his 17-game loan spell at the Albion in 2014. Despite scoring four times for Oscar Garcia's side, most notably one in the play-off semi final against Derby, few Brighton fans would have predicted the success Lingard has since had.

Lingard spent time on loan at Leicester and Birmingham before his move to the Amex and was then loaned to Derby in 2015.

After his fourth loan spell in the Championship, he finally broke into the United first team under Jose Mourinho and the attacking midfielder has not looked back. He had a stand-out season last year, scoring 13 times in all competitions and his rich form was rewarded with a World Cup call-up.

It was Sir Alex Ferguson, Lingard's former boss, who famously predicted he would be a late bloomer. Speaking in 2012, the former Manchester United manager compared a young Lingard to former French player and Fulham boss Jean Tigana: "He is 19, came through our youth system and is built like Jean Tigana was for France. But he never got into the limelight there until he was about 24, and I think that will be the same with Lingard."

Albion fans will be hoping for more England success tomorrow - but not just to see their country progress in the competition.

The Seagulls face the Red Devils in their first home game of the season on August 19 and it usually takes time for players coming back late from an international tournament to get back up to speed with the demands of Premier League football.

With the likes of Lingard, Ashley Young, Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku still in the tournament, Albion will hope it gives them a better chance of replicating their famous 1-0 victory that secured survival at the end of last season.