Tyrone Mings admits an England call-up felt like a “different world away” when playing in non-league while working as a mortgage adviser just seven years ago.
The Aston Villa defender was called up by Gareth Southgate for the upcoming European Qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo, something he could not envisage happening when turning out for Chippenham Town.
The 26-year-old - now 6ft 5in tall - was released by Southampton as a youngster for being too small, but following spells with Ipswich and Bournemouth after breaking into professional football, he played a key role on loan at Villa as they secured promotion back to the Premier League.
Villa boss Dean Smith opted to sign him on a permanent deal over the summer, and after some impressive performances in the opening four matches of the campaign, Mings is keen to impress for England.
"When I was playing football part-time and working as a mortgage adviser I had different goals, playing for England seemed like a different world away," he said.
"I just needed to get back into the professional game at that point.
"I can't say that while I was sat at my desk cold calling or trying to advise people on their mortgages that playing fort England was an achievable goal.
"But I've been able to work with some great coaches and having been able to play for some great clubs, everything has culminated to get me to this point.
"At different times I have had to reassess my goals, with injuries and so forth, but that makes being sat here even sweeter."
Fellow England internationals Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose have previously spoken about their experiences of racism in football, something that has been highlighted this week by the racist abuse suffered by Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku at the hands of Cagliari fans.
Mings feels there is an openness in the England camp at the moment and a recognition in society that players are confident enough to speak out on key social issues that matter to them.
"I think it's important for fans to see we are humans and we do have opinions," he added.
"People don't always agree with our opinions but it is about speaking out at the right time on the right topics and getting our message across in the right way.
"People have spoken about racism and mental health [issues]. Any topic people feel strongly about they should feel confident about to portray their personality."