Joe Lewis began his season trying to get a game on loan at Morecambe, in the Blue Square Premier. He has ended it playing against David Beckham in an England training session in the Caribbean. From the Shrimps to the big fish of English football in 10 months – it has been a remarkable rise for the goalkeeper who has just won promotion to League One with Peterborough.
The 20-year-old, who has played for the England Under-21s, was brought in by Fabio Capello after an injury to Wigan's Chris Kirkland. He earns £60,000 a year, roughly half what Rio Ferdinand pulls in a week, but he does have one thing in common with the Manchester United and England defender, and Beckham. They all know what it is like to have a Ferguson for a manager – in Lewis's case Sir Alex's son, Darren.
Joe Hart, 21, of Manchester City is a more likely starter tomorrow against Trinidad & Tobago, but Lewis is regarded as a serious prospect. From Bungay, in Suffolk, he has always been a Norwich City fan but he was sold by the Canaries, for £400,000, in January.
"At the start of the season I was on loan at Morecambe, struggling to get a club," Lewis said. "I was at Norwich, in the reserves, but nobody really wanted me because I was an inexperienced goalkeeper. Luckily, Sammy McIlroy [Morecambe's manager] took a chance on me and it went from there. My agent said I might have too much to do. But I needed first-team football and I thought if that was the case, [and] we were under pressure, I could also be the star, as well as the goalkeeper."
Lewis said that when he got the England call-up he thought someone was playing a particularly cruel joke. "The call came at 6pm and at 8pm the car arrived to take me to the hotel, so I had no time to think about it," he said. "I grabbed a bag, threw a few things in and went. [There was] no time even to be shocked."
Hart, who has been City's regular goalkeeper this season, said that the challenge was to displace David James with England.
"Anyone who has seen him this year or through his career will understand how big the task is," he said. "He is 37 and he is doing everything a 19- or 20-year-old would do. It is good to be around people like that. He is awesome. He played 90 minutes Wednesday night, flew 10 hours the next day and he was out on bone hard pitches here diving about. I don't know whether normal keepers would do that. He doesn't have to prove anything, but that it why he is No 1."