Levi Colwill looks set to make his England debut in the coming days – something that will stun fans who goaded him for failing to make the bench at non-league Sholing four months ago.
The 20-year-old is considered one of the top defensive prospects in Europe, having impressed on loan at Huddersfield and Brighton before breaking through at boyhood club Chelsea.
Colwill helped England win the Under-21 European Championship over the summer and is now in line for his senior debut, which will leave a few onlookers rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
The centre-back has strong family ties to non-league Sholing and wore one of their shirts as he cheered on uncles Byron and Dan Mason in May’s Southern League Division One South play-off final.
Colwill was one of the first in the dressing room to celebrate the 2-0 win against Hamworthy United and promotion on a day that started with him laughing off some pre-match ribbing from opposing fans.
“He had one of our shirts on and they were basically saying, ‘he’s rubbish, he couldn’t make the squad’,” Byron Mason told PA with a hearty laugh. “Little did they know!
“But he’s so chilled, he would never turn around and say ‘I’m a Prem footballer’ or anything like that. He’s not about that. He just laughed and took it.”
Colwill credits Sholing for helping fuel his rise to the top, having been a mascot at Wembley when uncles Barry and Byron Mason won the FA Vase final against West Auckland Town nine years ago.
Close family friend Marvin McLean scored the winner and still plays for Sholing along with Byron and Dan Mason.
“Sholing has been a massive family affair,” Colwill’s uncle Dan told PA. “Me and my brothers have been there for pretty much our whole lives.
“All of us have got 500-plus appearances each, so we’ve been there for years.
“When people do come there, even family and that, they really feel a part of it, which is obviously what’s special about non-league.”
Colwill’s watertight bond to his family and their club means he can often be found watching Sholing when he is not strutting his stuff at Stamford Bridge.
“When the fixtures comes out, we all look and see what games he can come to of ours and what games we can go to of his,” said Dan, who revealed Colwill has joined them on the coach to some away games.
“Honestly, any time we’re free we go to each other’s games. It’s a massive support thing.
“Even Saturday mornings and if we’re travelling, we’re in the group chat pushing each other for the win. As soon as the games are finished, we break down games in there.”
A frustrating diary conflict prevents Byron and Dan from making it to Poland as Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine kicks off immediately after Sholing’s match at Harrow Borough, while Tuesday’s friendly in Scotland clashes with another game.
“It hasn’t fallen right, so obviously we can’t make it – it’d have been amazing to be there,” said Byron, who joked his Wembley win is all he can hold over his talented nephew.
“We always stay (at the ground) to around six so we’ll watch the first half. Then we’ll have an iPad or something ready to watch the second half on the way home.
“I just can’t believe it. Hopefully he gets some minutes.”