Fleetwood Town are celebrating their first senior England international .... at the very senior age of 74!
Billy Crellin has represented England at junior levels and is a World Cup winner, but Neil Willetts has the honour of being Town’s first senior England player, having featured for the country’s over-70s’ walking football side.
Willett, who plays for the Fleetwood Flyers on domestic duty, has been at the club for three years.
Neil played for England against Guernsey in an international friendly and was named man of the match in the 2-1 win.
Speaking to the Fleetwood Town website, Willetts admitted the call-up took him by surprise.
He said: “It was a brilliant experience. I never expected at 74 to do anything like this in my life but it’s happened now and I’m really glad it has.
“You look round and think, ‘I’m 74 and this is a brilliant achievement!’
“I’m playing for North West England and have now been selected from at least 200 people to progress to play for England itself – it’s great, that!
“Me and my family are over the moon!”
You don’t just walk into the England set-up – well, maybe in this case you do – but Willetts had to go through trials in order to prove he was up to the grade.
These trials took place locally, then regionally in Wigan and then at the University of Gloucester , whittling 150 triallists down to just 10.
“I had two lots of trials at Wigan,” Neil explains. “I played for North West England down in Gloucester. The assessors were watching and players were selected from that match.
“Then there were trials down in London, where 150 players took part, and I learned three weeks ago that I was one of 10 to be selected from all the squads.
“When the manager phoned me up, he said you can make a career out of this and I said, ‘What, at 74?
“I might get a year or so out of this but I’m more than happy to have played for England
“I received a medal for the inaugural game, and I was also fortunate enough to be named man of the match. I received a pennant because of that.
“I’ve also got a new wine glass to remember the occasion.”