Marcus Rashford: 'What we're doing now is just the start of everything'
Marcus Rashford has vowed to put the smiles back on the faces of England fans with a promise of "greater things in the future'' for Gareth Southgate's team.
"What we're doing now is just the start of everything,'' the 19-year-old said after scoring the winner in Monday's 2-1 victory over Slovakia at Wembley.
England's comeback victory at Wembley put them within touching distance of next year's World Cup in Russia, but tournament football has led to more trauma than triumph for Three Lions supporters.
Rashford played a minor part in last year's Euro 2016 debacle but is starting the generate the kind of excitement that followed the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney in their early days.
And the Manchester United forward is optimistic there is plenty of room for a youthful squad to grow into the country's expectations of them.
"We're all quite young players, so hopefully we can be together for years and years,'' he said.
"We could be speaking about much greater things in the future. For the players and obviously for the fans as well, that's what we all want.
"We're young. As long we all stay together we are working on relationships off the pitch to make us better on the pitch. There are a lot of things going on in the background that hopefully can bring the best out of all of us.''
While English football's collective frustration all the way back to 1966 - and more than 50 years of hurt - their new hope is a relative newcomer to that anguish.
"The first [tournament] that I properly watched, when my football brain was more fully developed was 2010 when Frank Lampard scored [a disallowed goal] against Germany,'' he recalled.
"That was when I started watching, to be honest. It was very recent. The last World Cup in Brazil I think was on holidays, you know. I was in Dubai but I was watching all the games and following the whole World Cup -- it was quite a chilled holiday.''
Rashford revealed his childhood was filled with dreams of donning the red of United than the more distant pull of England, but will cherish his biggest moment to date in the international arena.
He said: "It was more a Manchester United thing, for me. You don't start to think about England until you are a bit older -- 15 or 16 and start playing in the England youth team.
"That is when you start to dream about moments like this. But when you dream, it's never the same as when you are out there. It was a special moment and one I will keep with me for a long time.''
Meanwhile, Southgate says Rashford is as mentally developed as Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen were at the same age, but now it is up to the teenager to use his platform to become an England great.
"I am sure from his point of view he would rather be compared to them than not,'' Southgate, former international team-mate of both players, said. "He is obviously a different type of player.
"He is as mature as they were in terms of their understanding of the game and the way he picks concepts up.
"But, yeah, it is up to him now. He has a great platform to build from, he has a really good influence at his club in terms of Jose [Mourinho], keep him grounded and we'll do the same here.
"What's been nice on his pathway over the last few years is that it has all been joined up.
"We used to speak to Ryan Giggs [when assistant to Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal] about which team to put him in because we didn't want to put him in the 21s too early.
"So up to this point, I think he has been really well handled and we have to make sure we continue to do that.''
Southgate has met Rashford's mother and brothers, who are a "good influence'' on a modest player with confidence and maturity that belies his tender years.
The England boss believes United have played a role in that, pointing to the "good values'' instilled in the forward and the likes of fellow squad members Jesse Lingard and Michael Keane.
Playing in front of more than 70,000 people at Old Trafford also sharpens the mind, making Rashford ready for almost anything - even if his rise to Hodgson's senior team came as a little surprise to then England Under-21s boss Southgate.
"When Ryan [Giggs] was working as assistant manager, Marcus had just broken into the team and we were deciding which age group to put him with,'' he said.
"We felt maybe putting him in the Under-21s straight away would put too much spotlight on him, so I think the club were grateful for that.
"But then Roy picked him for the seniors about two months later! So that plan was out the window but you can also see why because, blimey, the impact he had at the time and then immediately with England was fantastic.''
Now it is about giving Rashford the best chance to shine next summer, which was behind his absence from the England squad at the Under-21 European Championship.
"Well, the great thing is that if you look at our forwards with Dele [Alli], who is only a year older than Marcus, and Harry [Kane] is only a couple of years older, we have some really exciting players coming through,'' Southgate said.
"And some underneath that with the Under 21s, so that's really encouraging. We know we can score goals.
"We have to get the other bit of our game right as a team and if we can then we are dangerous in any game.''
There are a glut of options on top of the aforementioned trio, with Manchester City's Raheem Sterling one of those able to get people on their feet on his day.
The winger struggled in Malta on Friday and was replaced at the break and was given a few minutes off the bench against Slovakia.
"His reaction to being taken off was brilliant. I mean it's not easy for any player to be taken off at half-time, but I think he understands that we have belief in him,'' Southgate added.
"I said after the game that he's got a really tough mentality and he showed that. His response in training was really good.
"Again he's another who is only two years older than Dele, so he is another young player who is improving all the time.''