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Secrets to Marc Guehi’s meteoric rise – from church on Sunday to England legend

  /  autty

WHEN he was a lad, England ace Marc Guehi loved playing the drums at church.

His religion was so important to him that he didn’t play football on Sunday.

Yet at just 23, the Crystal Palace captain didn’t miss a beat as the Three Lions won their first game in the Euros and he continued to establish himself as a fixture in the heart of the defence.

After England’s warm-up stinker against Iceland, his faultless and composed display in the 1-0 win against Serbia eased fans’ nerves after Harry Maguire missed out on the 26-man squad.

 Marc still attends church and family is hugely important to him. This has made him respected and reliable both on and off the pitch and has helped put him on the path to success.

His drive to succeed started early. Marc’s school motto was “Be The Best That You Can Be” and he took it to heart.

The Crystal Palace ace was born in Abidjan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, but moved to England aged one.

His dad John, 52, became a minister at a church in Lewisham, South East London, where Marc played the drums.

Steve Owen, 65, who coached him from the age of five with Cray Wanderers, in Sidcup, South East London, before Marc moved to Chelsea’s youth system, said: “Marc was in a younger group but I used to sneak him in to play with older boys aged six.

“He was a left-sided centre-back like he is now, and not many players got past him. He wasn’t a flair player, but was solid in everything he did.

‘Amazing dedication’

“He was a very quiet boy and comes from a religious family. They are a very tight unit.

“I still speak to his dad occasionally. He was always the one to take Marc to training, from when he was at Cray to Chelsea.

“Marc was never late once, he was always early. His dedication for such a young kid was amazing.

“He is still very regimented in what he does and I think that is down to his background.”

Marc, whose full name is Addji Keaninkin Marc-Israel Guehi, moved to Chelsea’s academy at the age of eight and idolised club legend John Terry throughout his youth.

He worked his way through the ranks and played in two Carabao Cup matches for the Blues before two loan spells at Swansea City.

In 2021, the muscly 6ft defender — who is not on social media — signed for Palace for £18million on a five-year deal and has become one of the Premier League’s most highly-regarded young defenders.

Steve, who scouts for Chelsea’s academy, said: “When Marc was at Chelsea he came to Cray to do a presentation for the lads. He is a role model to everyone at our club. Seeing him at the Euros is fantastic, it’s a dream come true for any young footballer.”

As well as his no-nonsense defending, he is superb on the ball, with the ability to dribble past opponents and launch attacks.

And despite his quiet nature, he is also a natural leader, becoming Palace’s youngest captain in ten years when he wore the armband for the first time in 2022.

 He is now the Eagles’ permanent skipper.

Marc also captained England under-17s in the Euros in 2017, when they lost the final on penalties to Spain.

Later that year he scored in the final of the under-17s World Cup, starring alongside fellow Euros team-mates Phil Foden and Conor Gallagher, in a 5-2 win, again against Spain.

He has maintained his friendship with Conor in the England camp in Blankenhain, where in downtime they compete against each other in games of Mario Kart, basketball and table tennis.

Conor said: “Me and Marc go way back. We both joined Chelsea academy, we would’ve been seven or eight years old.

“We played with England together growing up, we went to Swansea together, Crystal Palace . . . so yeah, pretty much anywhere I’ve gone he’s kind of been following me.

“He’s a great friend of mine and he’s a top player as well.”

Marc’s leadership skills were clear at school, where he was a “responsible person” who acted as a role model to other pupils.

Marc’s old headteacher Edward Dove, of Marvels Lane Primary School in Lewisham, said: “Marc was with us for five years and he was a great kid. We have been following him with interest and pride.

“It’s not often you get a club captain at such a young age.

“That’s got something to do with his values, which hopefully we played a little part in.

“He embraced our motto of ‘Be The Best That You Can Be’. He always knew he was part of a team. He was a great role model.

“Marc hasn’t forgotten his roots. He has come back to visit us twice, after the under-17s won the World Cup and when he joined Crystal Palace.

“He has got great values which he seems to have maintained.”

Living with parents

As of last October, Marc was still living with his parents and sisters Lois, 21, Joelle, 16, and 12-year-old Shirel. He said previously: “It’s actually hard to put into words what my mum and sisters have done for me, because anything I say wouldn’t actually justify what they’ve done.

“I’m just so grateful to have them in my life.

“My sisters and I have always been close.

“We are all fortunate because not everyone has that and I’m very aware of it. I’m just glad we’ve grown up together.”

“God first” was the rule in Marc’s house growing up, which is why he would never play football on a Sunday until he began pursuing it as a career — and it is now paying off.

With two years left on his £50,000-a-week deal with Palace, he is being touted with a £65million move to Prem giants Liverpool, among others.

He has won 12 senior England caps and is in line for another in today’s match against Denmark, with a win putting the Three Lions through to the Euros knockout stage.

And he will have Man United’s Maguire, 31, worrying about getting back into Southgate’s starting 11 if he keeps up his perfect performances.

Marc has said: “My dad was a minister, so faith is massively important in my life.

“I still go to church on Sundays when I can and it’s played a big part in both my football and my life in general, with my morals, my values and who I put my trust in.

“My faith is something I value very highly in my life, for sure.

“Church was also where I used to play the drums. We didn’t have a set at home so it was the only time I could play.

“It was nice to just be free and enjoy it and it was an enjoyable part of growing up.

“I’m not up there with the greatest drummers in the world but I’d like to think I’m OK at it.”

If England are to win this year’s Euros, after losing in the final in 2021, they could do worse than follow the beat of Marc’s drum . . .