For William Troost-Ekong, the road to Wembley began only 30 miles away from the national stadium, at a private boarding school in the Hertfordshire town of Bishop’s Stortford. Since then, it has taken him all the way from London to Holland, Norway to Belgium and Nigeria to Turkey, and seen him represent seven different clubs and two different countries, all before the age of 25. “It’s a long way round,” he says with a smile. “The longest way round.”
The journey comes full circle this weekend, when Troost-Ekong pulls on Nigerian green and trots onto the Wembley pitch to face England in a pre-World Cup friendly. It will feel like a homecoming, and it will provide a reunion with Harry Kane, the striker who once helped Troost-Ekong fill out his registration forms when he was a fresh-faced scholar at Tottenham Hotspur. “He was one of the first guys that sat me down and helped me,” Troost-Ekong remembers. “It’s amazing to see how well he has done.”
Troost-Ekong and Kane have trod markedly different paths since those teenage days, only five years ago, when they shared a training pitch in north London. While Kane is the local lad who became the nation’s striking sensation, Troost-Ekong is the rugged centre-back who was born in Holland, raised in England and now praised in Nigeria as a leader of a side who could spring a surprise at this summer’s World Cup.