Some players come on the scene at a young age and look destined for the top straight away. For others, it can be more of a gradual process. Tyrone Mings certainly falls into the latter category.
It has not always been plain sailing for the centre-back. Injuries and loss of form have meant that he has only featured in more than 20 league games in a season just once in his career (barring playoffs), when he played 40 times for Ipswich in the Championship back in 2014/15.
So how can he possibly be ready for an international call-up? Gareth Southgate is set to name is squad for September's games against Bulgaria and Kosovo on Thursday, and many may feel that it has come too soon for Mings. Well, maybe not.
He Appears to Finally Be Over His Injury Problems
Mings has been unfortunate with injuries throughout his career. A torn knee ligament in 2015 ruled him out of action for almost a year, whilst a back issue saw him miss over seven months from September 2017 through to April 2018. There can be little doubt that this has stunted his progress.
However – and it's a big 'however' – he started 18 of Villa's final 20 matches last season, playing a key role as they finished the season strongly and gained promotion via the play-offs.
He did miss Tuesday's victory over Crewe in the Carabao Cup with a groin injury, but that is expected to just be a minor setback.
He's In the Form of His Life
Mings has never played better than he is right now. The same cannot be said for many of the other England defenders battling for a place in Thursday's squad.
While Harry Maguire has settled in quickly at Manchester United, John Stones has missed Manchester City's last two games due to injury and Joe Gomez has been left out since the opening day of the season, with Jurgen Klopp preferring Joel Matip instead. Stones and Gomez have plenty of potential, but they are simply not playing enough at the moment to show it.
Meanwhile, Everton's Michael Keane continues to deliver inconsistent displays, with Mings getting the better of his opposite number in the league as recently as last week. England fans have long called for players to be picked who are in form and playing regularly. Southgate need look no further than Mings to fit that criteria.
He Is Playing With Confidence (and Villa Fans Love Him)
Confidence is an attribute which should never be underestimated in football. Mings may well have struggled with this in the past, with injuries holding him back, and he also struggled to prove his worth during his previous time in the Premier League with Bournemouth.
Things are different now though. Villa spent a reported £20m on him this summer to bring him to the club permanently, a fee that could rise to £25m with add-ons – a pretty clear sign of confidence in his abilities. That kind of confidence transmits.
Mings clearly appreciates that trust, and it is showing in his performances. He appears confident whenever he plays, marshalling the defence as if he has been part of it for years rather than a handful of months. His presence in the back four has had a calming influence on the club, making him a fan favourite at Villa Park.
He's...Villa's Van Dijk?
No, no, no, no, no, he's not as good as Virgil van Dijk. He may have improved rapidly, but he's not the best defender in the world. Obviously. However, there are some similarities in their career paths.
Some may claim that Van Dijk was always destined for greatness, but in truth he did not show his full potential until he arrived at Liverpool. He had impressed at Celtic and Southampton, but...well, did you see him on a Ballon d'Or shortlist then?
The Dutch defender got his move to Liverpool at the age of 26 and has flourished. Mings is 26 himself now. He too seems to completely understand his game at this stage of his career, and is ready to produce his best football.
Having arrived for a substantial transfer fee (much like Van Dijk, yes), Mings has been a commanding presence for Villa, not letting his price tag affect his displays on the pitch. England are still searching for a solid defensive partnership, with June's defensive shambles against the Netherlands in the Nations League semi-final still fresh in the memory of England supporters. Maybe Mings has a part to play.