Brighton & Hove Albion defender Lewis Dunk will complete his remarkable rise from the club’s youth academy to making his first England appearance this evening against USA at Wembley Stadium.
After joining the club, aged ten, and working his way through Albion’s youth ranks, Dunk was promoted to the club’s under-18 squad on his 16th birthday in 2007, where he would go on to captain the side over the following years.
Dunk consistently impressed for the club’s under-18s and reserve side, and just one day after signing a two-year professional contract with the Seagulls, the defender made his senior debut for the club.
Gus Poyet introduced Dunk into the starting line-up for the team’s penultimate game of the 2009/10 League One season, and he helped the side keep a clean sheet in their goalless draw at MK Dons.
With Gordon Greer, Tommy Elphick and Adam El-Abd ahead of Dunk in the pecking order, the youngster had to settle for just five league appearances in the club’s memorable title-winning season in 2010/11.
Albion moved to the Amex Stadium for the following campaign, and Dunk’s chance to cement his place in the team was granted due to injuries sustained by Elphick and El-Abd.
Dunk went on to make 36 appearances across league and cup competitions, as he played in the club’s first-ever competitive match at the Amex and helped the side to a tenth-placed finish.
A brief loan spell to Bristol City came during the following campaign, but Dunk returned to make a handful of appearances towards the end of the season, including the Championship play-off semi-final second leg at Derby County.
Dunk became a mainstay in Albion’s side for the 2014/15 campaign, which saw Sami Hyypia depart and Chris Hughton arrive as manager, and the defender fired his first senior goal in the 2-0 League Cup victory against Cheltenham Town.
His goalscoring exploits that season saw him finish as the club’s top goalscorer with seven goals, with his first league strike coming against Charlton Athletic, when the defender’s brace secured a 2-2 draw.
Dunk made over 40 appearances during the 2015/16 season. Albion missed out on promotion on the final day of the campaign at Middlesbrough, and despite Dunk finding the back of the net in the play-off second leg against Sheffield Wednesday, the Seagulls were defeated on aggregate.
Shane Duffy arrived towards the beginning of the following campaign, and the defensive duo formed a formidable partnership to help the club seal promotion to the Premier League — keeping 13 clean sheets alongside one another.
Dunk’s finest moment in front of goal that season came at Craven Cottage, as he raced the full length of the field to finish off a free-flowing Albion move with a diving header to score the winning goal against Fulham.
The defender was Albion’s only outfield player to play every minute of Premier League football during the club's debut season, with a string of dominant performances helping the Seagulls secure their top-flight status for another year.
Dunk struck his first top-tier goal in Albion’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal at the Amex, as the defender powered home from inside the box to break the deadlock in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
The 26-year-old has shown his leadership skills over the past couple of years, with him regularly wearing the captain’s armband in Bruno’s absence — a sign of the trust Hughton holds in the defender.
Dunk departed the field injured in Albion’s 3-2 win against Manchester United this season, but he made a speedy recovery after missing just one match.
He then signed a new five-year deal at the start of October and was given his first Three Lions involvement when he was selected for the games against Croatia and Spain in the UEFA Nations League last month.
Dunk was not involved on the field in those two matches, but scored in back-to-back away games against Everton and Cardiff City during November respectively, before Gareth Southgate gave the defender his second call-up to the squad for the games against USA and Croatia this month, and he will take to the field this evening to complete his journey to the national side.