'Everything': Jude Bellingham pays tribute to Sunderland coach after stunning World Cup debut
England star Jude Bellingham has paid tribute to Sunderland coach Mike Dodds for his part in the midfielder's incredible rise.
Dodds was one of Bellingham's first coaches at Birmingham City, eventually going on to become Academy Manager before moving to Sunderland as Head of Individual Player Development. Dodds had worked at Birmingham with Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman.
After temporarily joining the senior coaching staff following the departure of Lee Johnson, that move became permanent under Alex Neil and he has continued as a first-team coach under Tony Mowbray.
Bellingham was speaking to England's 'Lions' Den' show to reflect on his outstanding performance against Iran, the 19-year-old opening the scoring as Gareth Southgate's side went on to win 6-2.
Dodds joined the show from Sunderland's training camp in Dubai and Bellingham explained the influence he had on him as a youngster.
"He's done everything for me really," Bellingham said.
"He's developed me as a player and also a person really since I was a kid, and he's moulded the person that I am today.
"A lot of the reason why I play the way that I do is because of him. I'm very grateful to him for what he's done for me and how he's been the way I am.
"When I first started working with Mike, he was someone who accepted you for who you were. He never tried to change you and I think that's the most important thing. I think there's been a theme in English football where talented players get moulded in a way that they don't express themselves or are as free as they'd like. i think you see I'm someone who is free on the pitch, I do what feels natural because of how he made
"I'd go into a game and he'd say, 'how many nutmegs can you get, how many goals, assists?' It was never a challenge that was restricting. Obviously there was the coaching where needed as well but I was never restricted. And more importantly, as a person in terms of how you should be with team-mates, how you become a leader."
Bellingham also explained Dodds' role in him taking the 22 shirt through the early stages of his career. Bellingham had initially enjoyed playing as a ten but alongside
Dodds, the pair tried to expand and improve his game by playing as a four and an eight.
Dodds said he knew Bellingham would rise to the challenge of playing in his first World Cup game.
"I had a feeling he was going to score, I'm in Dubai with another team and I said to one of the staff here that I thought he was going to score," Dodds said.
"Jude breaks records everywhere he goes, whether it's at Birmingham City or at Borussia Dortmund, it's in his DNA a little bit I think.
"It was a good feeling to see him score. Jude always wanted to be challenged even from a young age, and he'd let you know if he wasn't. We had a really good relationship. I can't speak highly enough of him, he's a wonderful footballer but an even better human being."