Tommy Charlton, the younger brother of World Cup heroes Bobby and Jack Charlton, is on the brink of his Three Lions dream after being invited to England Walking Football trials.
The 71-year-old will don his boots at Burnley Football Club’s training ground on Saturday in an attempt to break into the over 60s national walking football team.
Tommy, a pensioner and grandfather-of-six, currently plays for The Mature Millers walking football club in Rotherham.
He said: “I’m very excited about the trials and showing management some of my skills. Hopefully I’ll perform well but it’s going to be very difficult to make it into the squad as there are so many experienced walking footballers plying their trade at the moment.”
Tommy, a former winger in local amateur football, had to retire from the game aged 24 due to injury.
He was just 20 when he watched his two older brothers help England beat West Germany 4-2 and win the 1966 World Cup at Wembley.
He added: “Walking football is a rapidly growing sport and has so many positives because of its impact on having a healthy body and a healthy mind.
“I love playing the game and often get asked if I’m mad by Bobby, Jack and my family but I’ve built great relationships thanks to walking football and hope to break into the England team.”
Paul Carr, a mature UCFB student at the sporting educator’s Etihad Campus in Manchester is the founder of The Walking Football Association (WFA) - the national governing body of the sport.
He says Tommy will have his work cut out to represent England’s over 60s during the first ever walking football international match scheduled for May or June this year.
Paul, 62, who studies BA (Hons) Football Business & Finance at UCFB, said: “Tommy enjoyed a good career as a professional footballer and now has the chance to get in the over 60s England Walking Football team.
“It’s great that Tommy and former Liverpool legend Alan Kennedy are trialling, but they will be playing alongside and against a number of experienced walking footballers who are all keen to put the England shirt on and play in what will be the sport’s first ever international match.”
Final year student Paul decided to study at UCFB following his retirement as an accountant.
The Walking Football Association (WFA) was born in 2015 shortly before his ‘perfect pitch’ to the UCFB board as part of the educator’s Sports Entrepreneur Award.
“Walking Football is a rapidly growing sport and is now played in 35 countries with a World Cup and European championship both to be held in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
“If UCFB and its Chairman Brendan Flood hadn’t given me the opportunity to pitch my WFA idea the sport wouldn’t have the national governing body it has today.
“It’s incredible to be honest as only a few weeks ago I appointed England managers for the over 50s and over 60s teams. It’s also important to mention what a mentor Brendan Flood has been since I won the UCFB Sports Entrepreneur Award.”
With over 1,100 clubs and an estimated 35,000 players, walking football is the fastest growing sport in the UK.
John Croot, who created the game, sits on the WFA board of directors - a not-for-profit organisation - alongside Paul Carr and UCFB chairman Brendan Flood.
The sport has very specific rules that outlaw all running and allows either no contact or only minimal physical contact between players. Over-head height restrictions and indirect free kicks ensure that the sport is played safely with full consideration to the participants’ age.
Teams are either 5 or 6-a-side and the third of four England trials will take place on Saturday at the Barnfield Training Centre.