WITH England’s opening game of the European Championships taking place this weekend, Ben White will head into the tournament with his most recent outing having seen him make his maiden international start against Austria.

Rewind to 2018, and as England kicked off their World Cup campaign in Russia, White’s final pre-game tournament game had seen him play for Newport County in a 1-0 defeat to Chesterfield. Suffice to say, a fair bit has happened to the 23-year-old in the last three years.

White’s season-long loan at Newport was followed by another temporary stint at Peterborough United, but it was his year at Leeds United, as the West Yorkshire side finally won promotion to the Premier League that was the making of him.

Leeds tried to buy him last summer, but Brighton would not sell, and the Seagulls’ intransigence proved justified as the centre-half emerged as key part of Graham Potter’s first-choice line-up at the Amex last season.

White’s performances in a Brighton shirt earned him a maiden international call-up as part of Gareth Southgate’s provisional 33-man squad for the Euros, but it was anticipated that the defender would be jettisoned when the England boss trimmed his group to 26. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury changed things, although White would probably still have missed out had Harry Maguire not been carrying an injury that makes him a doubt for the whole of the group stage.

With Southgate keen to secure some additional central-defensive cover, White was selected as Alexander-Arnold’s replacement. A dream that started in the unlikely surroundings of Rodney Parade could be realised at Wembley on Sunday afternoon.

“It's been very surreal,” admitted White, who finds himself contending with Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady for the right to partner John Stones on Sunday, in the assumption that Maguire is not available. “Obviously, I didn't think this was going to be happening. I thought I was going to be somewhere hot, Portugal or somewhere.

“It’s mind-blowing, I didn’t really expect any of this to happen. Even the first bit, just being in the 33-man squad was enough for me. So, to make the final squad was unbelievable.”

Like a number of the players in Southgate’s squad, White has had to overcome a fair amount of adversity to make it as an international player.

Born in Poole, he started his career in Southampton’s academy, only to be released at the age of 16. His parents helped him approach a number of other clubs in the hope of securing a youth deal, and after a couple of false starts, he was eventually taken on by Brighton, who were playing in the Championship at the time.

Without the support of his family, he doubts whether he would have made it as a professional, so when he learned he had been selected as one of Southgate’s final 26, the first thing he did was ring his mum, who immediately broke down into tears. Goodness knows how she will cope if he makes it on to the field against Croatia this weekend.

“It’s literally all down to my mum and dad,” said White. “I definitely wouldn't be where I am now if they didn't help with all the stuff they did. I gave her a ring straight away and she was crying. It was an unbelievable moment.

“She’s obviously so happy for me. She’s seen how hard I’ve worked, and for it to pay off now is all she wants to see.”

White’s international career to date stretches to the full 90 minutes of Sunday’s Riverside friendly against Romania and a 19-minute substitute run-out against Austria four days earlier, but if he is called upon at the weekend, he is adamant he will be ready.

He has had to deal with people telling him he was not good enough at various stages of his career, and is not about to allow his international career to be derailed by self-doubt.

“I’ve played in all the leagues, and before each league, I was wondering if I could step up, but year after year, I’ve managed to do it,” he said. “This is just another one of those situations."