Arsenal’s Maitland-Niles is a World Cup winner with the England under-20s in Korea
PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 June 2017
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Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles helped England’s under-20s etch their names into the history books for all time by winning the World Cup in Korea on Sunday.
The 19-year-old midfielder came on as a substitute in the 76th minute of the final against Venezuela in Suwon, after Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin had scored in the first half.
Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman saved a penalty shortly before Maitland-Niles came off the bench to help clinch victory and England’s first global title since their 1966 World Cup triumph over Germany.
And Steve Wilks, headteacher at Oaks Park School when Maitland-Niles studied there as a youngster, was delighted for his former pupil.
“Ainsley never played for the school much as he was signed by Arsenal when he was seven,” said Wilks, a West Ham supporter.
“I know that because I interviewed him for his year nine options and he showed me all the photographs!
“He was obviously a very talented footballer and we have followed his progress since his debut for Arsenal. We are all very pleased for him and offer our congratulations.”
Maitland-Niles made his Arsenal debut in the Champions League against Galatasaray in December 2014, aged 17 years 102 days, and his Premier League bow against Newcastle four days later.
He played the full 90 minutes of England’s 3-1 win over Italy in the semi-final last Thursday.
Riccardo Orsolini gave Italy the lead after just two minutes and England trailed at the break, but second-half goals from Dominic Solanke and Ademola Lookman turned the tie on its head.
Solanke struck again to secure England’s progress to the final, after they had beaten Mexico (1-0) in the quarter-finals.
England had beaten Argentina (3-0) and hosts South Korea (1-0) in the group stage, while also being held to a 1-1 draw by Guinea, and saw off Costa Rica (2-1) in the last 16.
Manager Paul Simpson said: “It’s a dream come true, and that doesn’t even sound like a strong enough statement to express how big an achievement this is for everyone concerned.
“Hopefully we can use this as a stepping stone as ultimately the goal is to be successful at senior level and this has been a terrific experience for these players to help develop them for senior football.”