Manchester United midfielder Dylan Levitt has gone from being a starstruck teenager training with his Wales heroes to staking a claim for a starting spot at Euro 2020.
Levitt is used to seeing plenty of big names in football having joined United’s youth system at the age of eight and signing his first professional contract with the club in 2018.
The 20-year-old made his United debut in a Europa League tie in Kazakhstan in 2019, but admits it was training with Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and others that bewitched him after Wales’ success at Euro 2016.
“I was starstruck at the start, a little bit,” Levitt said ahead of Wales’ Euro 2020 opener against Switzerland in Baku on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of big names at United. But I was watching Wales when I was younger – Bale, Ramsey, Joe Allen, Ashley Williams – and it was crazy (to train with them) as they have been at the top level for so many years.
“Watching them in 2016, you jump to that level and they try and help you when you come through. You try and build a good bond.”
Levitt, who comes from Bodelwyddan in North Wales, was a 15-year-old schoolboy when Bale and company reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 in France.
He watched some of those games in school and says he never gets bored if 2016 squad members talk about their French adventure.
“It still intrigues me to this day,” said the eight-times capped Levitt. “Growing up watching that team, watching the games in the school hall.
“Every game, if I wasn’t in school I’d be watching it with my mates and my family.
“I don’t get bored with it really, I just want to remake it.
“Watching those games gave me more hunger to be in the next tournament.”
Levitt gambled on making Wales’ 26-man squad by heading to Croatia in February after a loan spell at Sky Bet League One side Charlton in the first half of the season had not worked out.
He joined NK Istra 1961 until the end of the season and did enough to force his way into Robert Page’s European Championship plans.
“The first part of the season wasn’t too great, I didn’t play too much,” said Levitt, who says he has benefited from the technical and tactical advice of former United and England midfielder Michael Carrick, now a first-team coach at Old Trafford.
“I got an offer from Croatia to go out there for four or five and months and I took it.
“It was beneficial for me as a player and individual, getting game time, and I’ve come back more confident.
“I feel I can adapt to most countries and I don’t mind if I play in England or abroad now.
“I knew if I’d stayed in the (United) Under-23s I wouldn’t get the chance of first-team football.
“Everyone needs the taste of men’s football, whether that’s in the first season or second season (with the Under-23s) and it was good to go out and get a different experience elsewhere.
“It’s an unbelievable honour to be in the squad. If I can get on that pitch in a major tournament for Wales that would be one of the proudest moments of my life.”
There is plenty of competition for central midfield places with Allen, Levitt, Ethan Ampadu, Joe Morrell and Matthew Smith all vying for starting roles in that area.
Morrell missed Wales’ final warm-up game, the goalless home draw with Albania on Saturday, with bone bruising but is fit for the Switzerland opener.
“I picked up a little knock which kept me out of the Albania game,” Luton midfielder Morrell said.
“But we played France and I definitely needed to get some minutes like everybody.
“It’s been good to get out here as early as possible and acclimatise a little bit.
“It’s pretty hot and it’s obviously something we’re going to face in the two games here.”