Milton Keynes boy Dele Alli became the second youngest player ever to score a World Cup goal for England as he helped the Three Lions reach the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.
We caught up with Dele’s mentor Dan Micciche, who coached him in the MK Dons and England youth teams, to hear about their conversations during the tournament, his thoughts on the 22-year-old’s performances, and how his success on the world stage will inspire young MK footballers…
Dele Alli’s mentor Dan Micciche believes the local football star’s heroics with England at the World Cup will inspire all young players in Milton Keynes.
Dan coached Dele at MK Dons from the age of 11 to 16 and then again in the England Under 18s after taking up a role as National Technical Lead and U15 and U16 coach at the Football Association.
And he says youngsters across MK have now got a brilliant role model to follow, after Dele became England’s second youngest ever World Cup goal-scorer by netting in the 2-0 win over Sweden to help the Three Lions reach the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.
Dan said: “It has been really special for me to follow Dele’s journey from coaching him as an 11-year-old to seeing him on the world stage for England. Dele started at grassroots level in Milton Keynes so his story is an inspiration to all young players in MK – it shows what is possible in life if you work hard, make sacrifices and are guided in the right way.
“Dele could have jumped ship from MK Dons when he was 15 and gone chasing the quick buck but he didn’t, he saw the value in playing 80 games for his hometown club and helping them get promoted from League 1.
“Hopefully young MK kids will follow that example.”
Dan was in close contact with Dele during the World Cup, just as he has been for the past 11 years. He said: “I’m in regular contact with Dele and his family – Alan, Sally and Harry Hickford – who are incredible people.
“Dele and I were messaging regularly during the World Cup and he enjoyed the little video messages of support my kids sent him.
“The thing I’m most proud of about Dele is how he is as a human being – he hasn’t changed at all with the fame.”
So as a professional coach, what did Dan make of Dele’s World Cup performances?
“Dele wasn’t playing in his natural number 10 position so we didn’t always see the best of him as he had to do a lot of defensive work, particularly against Croatia,” he said. “But he scored in a World Cup quarter-final, he won the free-kick for our goal in the semi-final and was a regular starter at just 22, which is a massive achievement.”
Dan is enjoying a break from football with his family at home in Broughton following a brief stint as MK Dons manager last season. He said: “I’m taking some time out after a hectic 15 years at Crystal Palace, Tottenham, MK Dons, the FA, then back at MK Dons. I’ve got 3 kids under the age of 7, which is keeping me busy!
“I’ve had a few phone calls from at home and abroad and I’m weighing up my options. But wherever I go I will be keeping a close eye on MK Dons’ results and hoping they bounce back into League 1.”
Southgate hails Dan’s role in England improvement
England manager Gareth Southgate has credited MK’s Dan Micciche for his ‘big part’ in the Three Lions’ World Cup successes.
Dan told Celebrate:MK: “Gareth texted me after the Colombia game saying ‘you’ve played a big part in this, I hope you feel that tonight,’ which was really nice of him and shows how humble he is and what a gentleman he is.
“When I was National Technical Lead at the FA I was known as the drum-beater for playing with freedom, which was a strapline I brought in to the FA.
“Gareth knows I was big on that and he has been brave enough to do it at senior level.”
City Colts players aiming to follow in Dele’s footsteps
Players at Dele Alli’s former youth football club City Colts are hoping to follow in their hero’s footsteps after enjoying England’s magical run to the semi-finals.
Dave Pugh, coach of City Colts Stingrays Under 8s (pictured), said: “Our kids used to only mention Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar but, since their return to preseason, they all want to be Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier or Harry Maguire!”