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Jesse 2.0: How Man United's Jesse Lingard revitalised his career via West Ham

Written on a whiteboard in the window of Jesse Lingard's Stratford flat overlooking the London Stadium were the words "European Championships."

It might have seemed an ambitious target when he joined West Ham from Manchester United on loan in January, but by the time England manager Gareth Southgate named his provisional squad for Euro 2020 in May, there was no surprise Lingard's name was on the list. The turnaround was made possible by his impressive form at West Ham, but also with the help of a tight inner circle including his brother, Louie Scott, and UEFA Pro Licence coach, Alexandros Alexiadis.

This is how they turned Jesse Lingard into Jesse 2.0 and, in turn, revitalised his career.


"It has been a massive team effort," Scott tells ESPN. "I introduced Alex [to Jesse], probably towards the back end of the [2019-20] season and he just started to analyse and assess Jess and look at some details in terms of what his attributes are, what his strengths are and how he can impose them a little bit more.

"It was just a little bit more attention to detail and putting a little bit more effort into what we could to make sure we achieved the best results. It was about consistency of habits and performance. Once you fall off, we know what can happen and how far down the ladder you can go and we've had to take that on the chin, work hard again and create a new foundation."

Together, Scott and Alexiadis -- friends for 10 years -- began spending hours analysing games and training sessions while also working to boost Lingard's confidence after starting to slip out of favour at Old Trafford during the 2019-20 season.

They had to be patient. Lingard, who came through the academy and made his first-team debut at 21 years old in 2014, found opportunities at United limited at the start of last season, making just two appearances in the Carabao Cup against Luton Town and Brighton.

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When the January transfer window opened, West Ham won a scramble for his signature, but there was an expectation he would need time to bed in slowly having not played a Premier League game since the previous July. Instead, he played 89 minutes of West Ham's 3-1 win over Aston Villa on Feb. 3 -- less than a week after the deal was announced -- and scored twice.

Even when Lingard was being overlooked at United, the message reinforced by Scott and Alexiadis was "don't be ready, stay ready" and it paid off.

"It was one of the major points we could see when he played against Aston Villa," Scott says. "He ran 12km, scored two goals, played most of the 90 minutes and made a massive contribution. Most people probably thought he might come on for the last 30 minutes and get the mileage back in the tank but he had been so professional even when he wasn't playing that he was already at that level.

"It wasn't just about going on loan and saying 'right, let's make a plan.' The results weren't there for maybe the first six or seven months because he wasn't playing. We knew it wasn't something that was going to be a quick fix, and we had to wait for a chance to see what we had in our minds come to fruition."


Lingard, 28, says his move to West Ham was "a lifeline."

"It was about hitting the restart button," he tells ESPN.

"The goals and aims pushed me and made me really concentrate. Being out of Manchester and in a new environment helped a lot. My thoughts were clear, and I knew what I needed to do. It worked out perfectly in the end. People saw the game at Villa and were like 'oh, he's back,' but the people closest to me, my friends and family, always knew it was there. It was just about getting a chance to show it."

Lingard initially set a target of three goals and two assists in his first six games for West Ham, but it had to be quickly revised.

"At first I was ambitious; I was like: 'eight goals, six assists' and Louie was saying: 'no, let's keep it at a level playing field'," Lingard laughs. "It was three goals, two assists before the Arsenal game to try to get into the England squad for the March internationals, then after that we changed it to six goals and five assists.

"Then it was just about working hard and trying to tick them off and helping West Ham because I wanted to help get West Ham into Europe, that was the main aim."

Lingard eventually ended with nine goals and four assists for West Ham, who finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League, won the Premier League's player of the month and goal of the month awards for April and was picked by Southgate for England's March internationals. He came within a whisker of making the final cut for Euro 2020.

Intensive video analysis of hundreds of hours of footage led by Alexiadis -- now head coach of the Greece Under-17 team after six years spent at PAOK FC -- helped Lingard seamlessly slot into David Moyes' team. He was also provided with a detailed run-down of upcoming opponents and the players likely to mark him. There were frequent Zoom calls with Alexiadis, and Lingard would watch clips on the bus to games.

"The team can't change for Jess -- Jess had to find what he can do with West Ham," Alexiadis tells ESPN. "You have to find out how Jess' skills can help West Ham. Because he was able to understand the principles of West Ham quickly, he was able to score goals. If Jess can find two or three important things in a game, for sure he will score or find an assist. Before a game, I can show him three or four moments where he can use his skills."

Lingard laughs as he remembers one example of Alexiadis' advice: "The Leicester game, they were saying when I got the ball I might not be able to turn because they play a high line," he recalls.

"First time I got the ball, I turned and Jonny Evans went BOOM! right into me and I thought: 'oh yeah, Alex said don't turn, OK'. It's little things like that that he's told you before a game that stay in your mind." West Ham went on to beat Leicester 3-2 with Lingard scoring twice.

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Before a trip to Molineux, Alexiadis showed Lingard how Wolves were susceptible to driving runs from midfield. After six minutes, Lingard picked up the ball on the turn in his own half, sprinted forward, beat three players and scored to put West Ham 1-0 up. They won 3-2. Two different games against teams set up differently, and two different ways for Lingard to hurt them.

"With the videos, we can show him what he can do and what he can do more of," Alexiadis says. "For me, I focused more on what he can do more of. When he succeeds with something, then we find the next step. Jess was very positive towards it and that's important.

"You cannot play every game perfectly. You are not a robot, you are a footballer. You also cannot explain every game before the game has happened. In some moments, you will be out of the game or you have to find a solution to a problem during the game. Jess has changed his mentality during games. There are different styles of games but we can still find a way for Jess to use his attributes and his skills."

Scott adds: "Alex has been immense in terms of his analysis of teams and players, post and pre-match. He gave us a different view and a more intellectual view about how you can analyse a game without being too emotional."

Lingard is on hand to give another example to back up his brother's point.

"In the Burnley game there wasn't really space to run with the ball," he remembers. "After the game, Louie is saying 'you could have run with the ball more' but from a coaching perspective with Alex, he's saying 'no, it's not the game to run, against Burnley it's second balls.'

"You get two different perspectives. It's good, because you need that emotional side from family members and you also need the perspective of a coach who can look at it in a different way."


Off the pitch, the emphasis has been on mindset and mentality.

Scott introduced the whiteboard -- headlined "Jesse 2.0" -- with one page dedicated to statistics and targets and the other covered in motivational phrases. Some were moments from Lingard's career like "three cup final goals" while others were words to carry through the day such as "believe," "aggression," and "leadership.

"It's just little reminders," Lingard says. "I would go to bed and I could hear Louie moving the board out so as soon as I left for training or a game, the board would be up and it would be little words or phrases that would stay in your mind."

Scott laughs: "I'd make him tell me a phrase before he left for training. Just before he'd leave, I'd say 'give me something' and he'd say 'intensity' and then he'd be out the door. It was a lot of positive energy and a positive mindset.

"I wanted to make sure he had a subconscious mindset. All of his targets were there and you could see his goals. One of the biggest goals was to get back into the England team for the Euros and we were so close."

Lingard has scored in an FA Cup final, an EFL Cup final and played in a World Cup semifinal, but he still admits that, following a difficult period in his career, he perhaps needed a reminder of how good a player he is.

"I think so, definitely," he says. "I never doubted my ability, it was just confidence. I was short of confidence because I hadn't played."

It's confidence that Alexiadis pinpoints as the biggest change he's seen in Lingard during their 18 months together. "I've seen more confidence and that's an important thing," he says. "You cannot lose your skills. For three or four years, he was one of the most important players. You cannot forget that, but you have to have the confidence to show it again."

Lingard is back at United this summer and preparing for the new season at the club's training base in Surrey, just outside London.

Back in training just a few days before the first preseason friendly at Derby County, he came on at half-time and was one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's best players as his team won 2-1. It would have been 3-1 had a fierce drive from 20 yards dipped under the crossbar rather than crashing into it.

Still three weeks away from the start of the new season, Lingard, with the help of his brother and Alexiadis, has already picked up where he left off at West Ham.

"Working with Alex and Louie, it's improved my focus, concentration as well as having the maturity to take responsibility for my own development," Lingard says.

"Before Alex, I didn't really have any specific goals or ambitions but they've really helped. I know what I need to do to play and get into the team.

"At the moment it's friendly games but I'm taking them seriously. I'm taking no prisoners. It's not like I need to prove myself to anybody, everyone knows what I can do. I know now in my head what needs to be done.

"There's more to come, right now it's just grazing the surface. We'll have targets again. We'll have some goals for the first half of the season and then the second half. The whiteboards are back in Manchester at my house. Nothing is up yet but there will be."

Watch this space.