THE golden boy of English football and one of the brightest young stars on the planet, Jude Bellingham’s rapid rise to the top may have – in some small way – been aided by Swindon Town.

The 20-year-old has impressed in the latest round of international fixtures for England, registering a goal and an assist in their 3-1 win over Scotland on Tuesday.

He has become an indispensible part of the England team in the last year.

But turn the clock back three years and 16-year-old Bellingham was lining up against Richie Wellens’ League Two chargers in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Birmingham City’s training ground.

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Seen as the Blues’ most talented teenager of all time, the centre-midfielder came on as a second-half substitute in Birmingham’s 6-1 victory and scored twice inside half an hour.

With Pep Clotet’s team already four goals to the good at half-time – thanks to strikes from Dan Crowley, Isaac Vassell, Odin Bailey and Craig Gardner – Michael Doughty grabbed Swindon’s consolation goal.

But Bellingham made it 5-1 to the hosts courtesy of Charlie Lakin who rode a challenge in the box before teeing him up to fire home. Then, with just six minutes of normal time remaining, Bellingham was on the scoresheet again.

His initial attempt to chip Town goalkeeper Nikolay Krastev was thwarted, but Bellingham was quickest to react to the rebound and placed the ball home.

At the time, Wellens predicted Bellingham would go on to play at the next World Cup – a prophecy which turned out to be spot on following a whirlwind few years for the Stourbridge-born teenager.

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Bellingham played 44 times for Birmingham in the subsequent season, scoring four goals and providing two assists while simultaneously alerting a handful of elite European clubs to his talents.

Borussia Dortmund won the race, and the midfielder would spend the next two-and-a-half seasons honing his skills and winning the German Cup along the way.

He has since secured a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid for around £88 million, and has already hit the ground running and become a fans' favourite.

All those associated with Swindon can rest in the knowledge that those two goals against Town might have been the confidence boost Bellingham needed to go on and become a great.