How humble Drinkwater recovered from Man United rejection

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The Blues midfielder is just starting life at his new club and has had to go the long way round to prove his worth at one of the top clubs in England

A 21-year-old Danny Drinkwater was sold on the cheap by Manchester United to Leicester City after being unable to convince the decision makers at Old Trafford that he could make it at the highest level. 

Leicester proved to be the perfect platform for Drinkwater, who quickly went from a Championship midfielder to Premier League title winner and England international in the space of his four-and-a-half year spell with the Foxes.

He made a £35 million move on transfer deadline day to Chelsea but his debut was delayed due to a calf injury. He has since made his first appearance for this new club, against Everton in the Carabao Cup at Stamford Bridge, but to understand Drinkwater and whether he will be a hit with the Blues, it is useful to look at the mentality of the 27-year-old. 

Before he signed for Man United, he played up front for Unicorn Athletic in the suburban town of Timperley with a group of boys with who he remains close friends to this day.

Kenny Crane was Drinkwater's first coach at Unicorn and he still has 'Drinky' over for dinner. He believes that his former charge can thrive at Chelsea.

"If Drinky was playing for United, Real Madrid, Barcelona or whoever, his personality would stay the same," Crane told Goal. "He will always be his own man. He’s not the most outgoing person, he’s not loud or brash, he’s quite deep. He just gets on with it.

Danny Drinkwater

"I am sure that he would love to have made it at United. He holds no grudge against them and they were probably right at the time to release him but I think it shows his determination to sign for another top four club because he could have easily just drifted through the lower leagues at Huddersfield and Cardiff.

"It’s not a case of showing that he could have made it at United by going to Chelsea. All the staff that were there have left anyway now. He’s not trying to show them he made a mistake, it is just his own determination to go up to another level from Leicester. He always supported United.

 "I am pleased he got his move to Chelsea. You just want to impress when you move, especially a club like Chelsea in the top four, you have got to hit the ground running and they have some bloody good players.

"He is frustrated because of his injury and everything but I think it will take him a good number of weeks to get match fit. Hopefully, he can get games in the League Cup. I don’t think they will throw him straight in but give it a few weeks and as he recovers, I am sure that he can do what he did at Leicester, where he did a really good job."

Drinkwater has no Facebook account, no Twitter account and he only posts occasionally to Instagram. He isn't into self-promotion and rarely gives interviews in the media, seemingly taking after his childhood idol Paul Scholes. 

His personal life remains the same as it was 20 years ago, with the only difference being that his friends and family have to travel slightly further to London to be around him. Crane was keen to point out that Drinkwater still has roots in his local community and that he won't seek the limelight.

"Drinky is still best mates with the lads from the club [Unicorn Athletic]," Crane added, "My son Steve and two others guys called Matt and Luke. There’s the four of them, best mates then and they are still best mates now so I have always been close to Drinky following his career.

"The four of them still go on holiday, he will come around to our house for dinner, he is just normal with his mates. I assume that his mates will be his mates for life. He’s no 'big time Charlie', he would never show off his money. You won’t see him getting married and putting the pictures into OK Magazine.

"He has been back to his school to meet the kids a couple of times. They are really proud of him there, understandably but he’s not a naturally outgoing person. He doesn’t say look at me, if he does something nice then he does it quietly. He doesn’t look to get himself in the newspapers like other players do, to get a few extra quid.

"His life is no sob story, he is from a solid family unit. His mum and dad are really nice people but his dad still goes to all his games. So do all his mates."

Danny Drinkwater

Leicester's champions of 2016 benefitted from having players like N'Golo Kante and Drinkwater, who held a quiet confidence while competing against bigger names for the title.

Drinkwater's fitness may have so far hindered him at Chelsea but his attitude will likely impress Antonio Conte, whose teams play with humility and work hard. Crane is surprised by only one thing relating to Drinkwater and that's the fact that he became a disciplined midfielder rather than a goalscorer. 

"He would do his own thing because he was good. I would say to him that you are playing on the right wing and you would see him in the left-back position. He always had a little bit extra, he was very small at that age," he said.

"The most surprising thing about him is his position. As a youngster, he was a goalscoring forward. He scored for fun. He went to academies and played pro and he’s become disciplined. He is disciplined as a central midfielder.

"He was small for his age and he would go dribbling through four or five players and slot it in, because of his physique he wasn’t hitting it from 20 or 30 yards like he does now. He didn’t have the strength back then. He was a skilful tricky little player.

"We had a tournament in Blackpool, a national tournament. There was a team from Essex who were supposedly all superstars and they were good. We met them in the final. It was 2-2 and in the very last minute, Drinkwater gets it in his own half and just decided he had enough, went through the lot of them and slotted it in.

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"As a kid, he always had that about him. As a kid that was the happiest I have seen, the biggest smile and celebration I have ever seen on his face. When Drinkwater left to go to Manchester United, he asked for his Unicorn Athletic shirt.

"He has still got that now in a frame next to all his world famous named shirts, he still treasures his little Unicorn one. That is nice, it makes me feel good and I think fair play to the lad."

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