He grew up in a modest end-terrace house squeezed beside a parade of nondescript takeaways and beauty salons in Stockport.
But Phil Foden’s rapid rise to footballing stardom has transformed the lives of the England winger and his family.Foden – or ‘Ronnie’ as he is universally known to family and friends – is arguably the most complete English footballer of his generation and his wages at Manchester City were recently trebled to in excess of £200,000-a-week.
Such wealth has enabled the 22-year-old to buy his family a £3million, six-bed gated house in the picturesque Cheshire village of Prestbury.
On top of that, earlier this year, he and his partner Rebecca Cooke, 21, moved down the road into their own £2.85million mansion, along with his son also called Ronnie, three, and their one-year-old daughter.
It’s a far cry from those early days when Foden was a football-mad boy kicking his ball in the street where he lived in Edgeley with his parents, Phil Sr and Claire, and older brother Callum.
Indeed his growing fortune has also changed the life of his paternal grandmother Mary, enabling him to buy the 61-year-old a £200,000 bay-fronted house just up the road from where he grew up.
She was the one who first gave him the nickname ‘Ronnie’, calling him ‘Ronnie Roundhead’ due to the shape of his head. And the death of her partner, Foden’s grandfather, Walter at the age of 47 inspired his Man City squad number. Family clearly means a lot to Foden, who also has four younger siblings, and he remains proud of his Stockport roots.
He has also spoken of feeling the ‘pressure’ to use his earnings to repay his parents for their support. In an interview with last month’s Esquire magazine, Foden encapsulated the reasons for his success on and off the pitch, saying: ‘I wanted to be able to look after my family.’
Phil Snr, 43 – ironically a Manchester United fan – now manages his son’s career, while his mother, also 43, is credited with keeping the young superstar’s feet on the ground. Last year she described how he was ‘the cheapest kid ever’, telling The Daily Telegraph his childhood was: ‘No games, no toys, nothing, just a football.’ Back in Edgeley he would incessantly practise from the moment he learnt how to walk, whether in the living room, the back garden, or the car park a few doors from his family home opposite a bookmaker’s.
Scouted by Man City as a youngster, he worked his way through their academy and made his debut in 2017, aged 17.
He now has 31 goals in 111 Premier League appearances for the club. And over the next fortnight, he hopes to add to his tally of 20 senior England caps and three goals. Despite his superstar profile, Foden and Miss Cooke remain a familiar sight in and around Edgeley, returning regularly to visit family and friends.
‘He’s never Phil Foden to us, he’s always “Ronnie”,’ said Colette Haworth, 28, landlady of the Royal Oak pub. ‘You’ll often see him pushing a pram along the precinct, or carrying a takeaway and a bottle of wine.
People around here are very proud of how he’s stayed so close to his roots.’ Local shopkeeper Harish Panchani, 54, said: ‘He still comes into the shop with his girlfriend, he’s really down-to-earth – he takes his kids to the park over the road, and goes fishing in the local lake.
‘How many top footballers can you say that about?’ Mr Panchani added: ‘The whole family are just decent people, and I’m sure the way he’s still so rooted in the community is a big part of how he’s handled becoming so famous.’
His former coach Steve Eyre said: ‘I think he’s on course to one day being the best player in the world.’ Along with football and family, the pastime of fishing is a third recurring theme in Foden’s life.
He missed the City players’ 2018 Premier League title celebrations because he had a pre-planned fishing trip with his father. ‘It’s good for clearing your head after you’ve had a bad game,’ he explained. These days, the demands of football and fatherhood leave him little time for the hobby.
Nevertheless Foden remains loyal to angling friends such as Paul Adrian, who received a call from Foden after his sensational performance against Wales on Tuesday. ‘He was on Cloud Nine,’ said Mr Adrian, 50, from his tackle shop in Droylsden, Manchester. ‘He was just really upbeat, excited, because obviously it was his first World Cup goal.’
Tomorrow, when he faces Senegal in the first knock-out round in Qatar, the eyes of the world will be on that lad from Stockport. His family, and millions of others across the country, will be roaring him on.
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