He thought his dream was all over! Jack and Bobby Charlton’s younger brother makes his England debut aged 72 as he pulls on a jersey for the Over-60s
The younger brother of World Cup heroes Jack and Bobby Charlton said it was a dream come true when he took to the field for his England debut today.
At the age of 72, Tommy Charlton played for England Over-60s side as they took on Italy in their first ever international match at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.
The grandfather-of-six said he was proud to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers, who both played in the 1966 World Cup Final.
The younger Charlton brother, who currently plays for the Mature Millers walking football club in Rotherham, said representing his country was ‘the most incredible privilege and a dream come true.’
He was picked for the football international after impressing national selectors at a trial.
Like his brothers, Tommy was a keen football player in his youth but never turned professional.
But he has always loved the sport and took up walking football six years ago after seeing it advertised at his local gym.
The international match at the Amex stadium was a shop window for a sport that is growing in popularity among older people.
Tommy Charlton said: ‘It’s an incredible sport because it allows people who may have played football when they were young to reconnect with football.
‘It is good for overall health and it sharpens the mind. I love it so much that I’d be devastated if I could no longer take part.’
The sport of walking football has a national governing body, the Walking Football Association (WFA), which is backed by sporting educator UCFB (University Campus of Football Business).
Mr Charlton 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.
Today, he put on an England shirt that is based on the one worn by his brothers in that final.
It even had Number 9 on the back – the same number shirt as worn by his legendary brother, Bobby, who scored both goals in England’s 2-1 win over Portugal in the semi-finals of the 1966 World Cup.
He said: ‘I was 11 when Bobby made his debut for England and it has always been incredible for me to watch my brothers play. Bobby is the best footballer I have ever seen in my life and I tried to copy them both as a kid.
‘I’ve always tried to give everything like them and they are both fantastic role models.
‘Walking football is great. I’ve got a metal valve in my heart. I’ve got a plastic aorta. I’ve had my gall bladder out and I’ve broken a kneecap so if I can do it anyone can do it.’
Tommy, who worked for the Mines Rescue Service, had a couple of chances during the match, forcing the keeper to tip one effort onto the post.
England ran out clear winners 3-0.
At a pre-match dinner in Brighton, Tommy received a heartfelt message from both his older brothers, which was read out at the meal.
Jack Charlton said: ‘Hope you have a good game. Thinking of you. Sorry we can’t be there but I know you will be brilliant.
‘Both Bobby and myself are incredibly proud at the fact that at the tender age of 72 you are able to follow in the family footsteps and get to play for England. So very proud of you. All the very best Jacky and Bobby.’
Walking football sees two teams of six face off against each other on a pitch half the size and played 25 minutes each way.
There are over 1,100 clubs and an estimated 35,000 players participating in walking football – making it the fastest growing sport in the UK.
It is played in 35 countries, with a World Cup and European championship both to be held in England in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
The winners of each contest were presented with the Just International Cup, after Just Group sponsored the international matches.
The sport has very specific rules, with no running allowed and allows either no contact or only minimal physical contact between players as well as over-head height restrictions and indirect free-kicks.
All ticket proceeds were donated to Prostate Cancer UK and Football Aid.
Before the match, Tommy Charlton said: ‘I never in a million years thought that I’d follow in the footsteps of my brothers and represent England.
‘I was shocked when I got the call, but am delighted to be in the squad for the first-ever walking football international against Italy.
‘There are so many good walking footballers in this country and it will be an honour to play alongside them and against a strong Italian side.
‘When I get my boots and the England strip on I’m sure it will be a great feeling.
‘I just hope we can put in a good performance against Italy and impress the fans who come out to watch us at what is a brilliant football stadium.’
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