Nev's Notes

Jesse Lingard is 25-years-old.

Just look at him. Look at that 25-year-old man aimlessly filming himself and his weary friends. It’s the actions expected of a pre-pubescent teen who has been allowed a go on their dad’s smartphone. Even baby-faced Marcus Rashford, half a decade younger than Lingard, is sick of his teammate’s antics.

He’s so annoying. Jesse Lingard is so annoying.

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It’s not just the endless videos. It’s the choreographed handshakes and dance moves, dragged out after every goal. It’s the self-imposed nickname – ‘JLingz’ – shoehorned onto the end of every tweet. Lingard is half-footballer, half-meme.

Before you leap to Mr. Lingz defence, I know it’s harmless fun. I know we should encourage footballers to show a bit of personality. I know he has the right to celebrate his goals however he chooses and I know I’m a bitter and grumpy individual. I don’t care. If you can’t be irritated by a man dancing ridiculously then what is there left to be irritated by?

Such is the bizarre nature of Lingard’s behaviour that you can sometimes be annoyed into forgetting he’s quite good at football. It may be different for Manchester United fans, but when I think of Jesse Lingard, I don’t think of his FA Cup winning volley in 2016. I don’t think of his 13 goals this season, including winners against Arsenal and Chelsea. I think of him dabbing… and spelling his initials with his fingers…and playing an imaginary clarinet.

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The JLingz caricature is so distracting, that it still comes as a shock to me when he starts for England. It catches me off-guard when his goal gives the three lions their first win in Holland for 50 years, or when his quick thinking puts Jamie Vardy through to open the scoring against Italy. What is happening? Why is the man off the internet playing well? Can memes win matches? Apparently so.

England won’t win the World Cup this summer, but if they did, it would have to be the guy who gives himself a nickname that scores the winner. Lingard would have to do a lap of the Luzhniki stadium, tongue out, dabbing continuously whilst FaceTiming Paul Pogba. He would have to take the trophy to the corner flag and pretend to play it like a woodwind instrument. It would just have to be #JLingz and I would happily accept it.

I’d use the hashtag, do the dances and embrace the meme. But until then, I’ll remain sceptical. I’ll tut at every tweet and wave my fist at every Milly Rock, secretly willing him to go viral this summer.