Jesse Lingard has defended his use of social media and says his off-the-field interests do not affect his focus in training or games.
Lingard has earned a recall to the England squad after scoring five goals in seven games since his loan move from Manchester United to West Ham in January. He has faced suggestions his activities away from football are a distraction but the 28-year-old disagrees.
“I feel for me that my things off the pitch… that’s just me as a person, that’s my character, it’s my personality,” Lingard said. “I like to interact with my fans and let them see what I’m doing. I’m not doing anything untoward.
“I’m still doing my things when I’m on the pitch and really training hard so as long as I can keep that focus and consistency through to the end of the season hopefully I can go to the Euros.
“I’m just about character, you know relax, have fun and play with a smile on my face but when it comes down to football, you know I’m 100% there, 100% working hard for my team in training and on match days.”
Lingard has been a revelation at West Ham after slipping down the pecking order at Old Trafford. He was limited to just three appearances during the first half of the season before signing a six-month deal at West Ham.
“I think when you’ve worked so hard coming back into pre-season after lockdown, you’re expecting to play and obviously I weren’t playing,” he said. “I kept ticking over, with my gym work, my fitness work, and I was just ready to play when called upon.
“Obviously I played a few games, did well in them games and obviously I thought was going to play a bit more but, like I say, it’s football and things happen.
“For me, it was just about staying focused and concentrated and eventually having that chat with the manager to ask him whether I’d be able to go on loan or not obviously with a lack of game time.”
West Ham are keen to sign Lingard permanently in the summer, although the midfielder will still have a year left on his contract at Old Trafford. United face a decision over whether to offer a new deal or collect a fee to prevent him leaving for free in 2022 and Lingard has stressed his only objective is to play regular football.
“I had a few conversations with Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] leading up to the loan,” he said. “I was obviously telling him I need to go and play football, regular football and we agreed.
“He said he understood; at my age now I need to be playing regular football. I’ve moved to London, which is different, different group of lads — all the lads are brilliant at West Ham, they’ve welcomed me with open arms.
“The staff have been great and the whole club, the whole set-up is really good. I’m playing week, in week out and I’m doing something that I love so, for me, it’s been perfect. It’s a new lease of life.”