England fans are apologising to Birmingham for reaction to retiring Jude Bellingham's shirt number
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England fans are apologising for rinsing Birmingham City over retiring Jude Bellingham's shirt number after his World Cup masterclasses.
In 2020 when it was confirmed that Bellingham would be joining Borussia Dortmund in a £26 million move, Birmingham announced they were retiring the No.22 in his honour.
He was just 17 at the time and had only played one season for the club, making 44 appearances as the Midlands club avoided relegation from the Championship in 2019/20.
The idea was that in retiring the number of their youngest goalscorer and a lad who had joined them at under 8's, Birmingham would "remember one of our own and to inspire others."
They were laughed at and ridiculed for the gesture but two years on and after seeing Bellingham run the show for England in Qatar, fans have changed their tune.
One social media user wrote: "The footballing world laughed when Birmingham retired his shirt number. No one’s laughing now. At this rate they also need to build a statue outside the ground and rename the stadium after him."
Another said: "Ahead of the curve."
A third weighed in: "We were all puzzled when this news broke, but now we understand why. Generational talent."
A fourth concurred: "Didn’t get it at the time but I hear you loud and clear."
The apologies are now as loud as the initial disrespect and rightly so. The 19-year-old has developed into one of the most sought-after talents in world football at Dortmund.
And he's been a revelation in his first World Cup tournament. Bellingham scored the opener in the 6-2 thrashing of Iran and then churned in an impressive display against Wales.
In the 3-0 round of 16 win over Senegal, Bellingham was unplayable - driving through midfield with ease and causing all sorts of problems for the Africa Cup of Nations holders.
He set up the opener for Jordan Henderson and bulldozed past opponents for Harry Kane's first strike of the showpiece, which was set up by Phil Foden.
He led a number of statistics, including the most dribbles (four), the most duels (nine) and tackles completed (four) after a breathtaking 75 minutes.
With maturity beyond his years and a winning mentality, Bellingham already looks to be the complete midfielder.
Foden paid him the ultimate compliment after the win at the Al Bayt Stadium and tipped him to achieve greatness.
"I don't want to big him up too much because he is still young, but he's one of the most gifted players I have ever seen," Foden told ITV.
"He has no weakness in his game. I think he will be the best midfielder in the world."
It seems Birmingham knew what was about to come in the future.