JUDE BELLINGHAM returns to football's fast lane on Wednesday when the Three Lions' teenage World Cup sensation locks horns with Chelsea in the Champions' League.

It's the high-octane environment the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder was always destined for.


Unfortunately, for Bellingham MkII, his younger brother Jobe, life is currently the pits – which is where he finds himself right now.

The 17-year-old's career has been temporarily stalled by injury, which has forced him off track as Birmingham City's medical team carry out running repairs on the strained stomach muscle he suffered in training back in January.

Since then Bellingham Junior has been sidelined for six weeks, ruling him out of the Championship side's last seven games, with weeks of hard rehab still ahead of him.

It's the first bump in the road for Jobe, an England international at Under-16, U17 and U18 level.

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But Birmingham boss John Eustace is confident the midfielder will handle the pressure as he looks to carve out his own pathway in the pro game.

He said: “Jobe is a fantastic young player. Until now his development has been excellent and he's made 18 senior appearances in the last year. But overall, we feel Jobe is doing very, very well."

There has been a buzz about the Bellingham brothers since foreign scouts started flocking to Birmingham City's Wast Hills Training Ground – long before Jude beat Trevor Francis's record to become the Blues' youngest debutant aged 16 years 38 days.

Such was Bellingham's prodigious, precocious talent, Birmingham retired his No.22 shirt when he left for Dortmund for a club record £25million, to become the most expensive 17-year-old in the history of the game. 

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Fortunately for the cash-strapped Blues – like London buses – you wait forever for one to arrive and then two come along at once.

By the time Jude was saying 'Auf Wiedersehen,' to St Andrew's his younger brother Jobe, just 15 at the time, was included in City's official photo-shoot promoting their new kit for the 2020-21 season.

Jobe, who is more attack-minded than Jude, was named on the subs' bench for Blues' EFL Cup tie at home to Colchester United last August.

But former Blues boss Lee Bowyer didn't need to call on him that evening and Jobe narrowly missed the opportunity to nip in ahead of his big brother as Birmingham's youngest ever debutant.

However he did make his senior debut as a second-half sub against Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup last year to become Blues' second youngest debutant, aged 16 years and 107 days.

Since then, he has gone on to sign his first pro deal when he turned 17 in September and he has now made 18 appearances in all competitions for Blues.

He has been carefully nurtured and 13 of those appearances have come from the bench as he clocked up 188 minutes of total playing time.

The last thing Jobe needs is the pressure of being compared to one of Europe's most coveted players, who made his mark at the World Cup in Qatar.

Fortunately his future is in safe hands at a club who now have experience of how to keep expectation levels in check at such a fragile stage of a young pro's career.

Birmingham handled Jude's progress expertly, and they are determined to protect Jobe in the same way, carefully monitoring and limiting media requests to interview him.

They are acutely aware of the fact that Jude is a one-off and Jobe has his own career to carve out without the pressure of being constantly compared to his world-famous big bruv.

Fortunately, proud dad Mark Bellingham – a former non-league player who scored more than 700 goals in his day – knows the score.

He has expertly managed to keep his talented boys grounded and has no intention of letting the hype around Jude affect Jobe's development.

Eustace believes Jobe has one significant advantage over Jude – the fact Birmingham's highly productive Academy is turning out a new generation of equally talented youngsters.

Where Jude was a one-off who has lived in the full glare of the media spotlight since he was a kid, Jobe has a peer group of fellow Academy graduates also making their mark on Blues' first team.

Blues boss Eustace believes it's healthier to compare Jobe's progress with them – rather than his world-famous Champions' League playing bro.

He said:  "We have to balance where Jobe is with Jordan James, George Hall, Alfie Chang, who all need vital minutes with the first team.

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"It’s not like we have just got one or two young players in the group, we have got a lot of young players coming through. 

"It’s vitally important they develop at the right stage and I think Jobe is doing that extremely well."

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