If any walking footballers in the north west have aspirations of playing for England, they're going to have to catch the attentions of the men from Blackburn Rovers!
Two key figures from Rovers' continuously successful walking football programme - operated by the club's Community Trust - have been given roles within the regional feeder setup that has been created to find players for England's over 50s side, for which Rovers star Trevor Hanson is already a key player.
Tony Hartley, a regular in Rovers' over 50s side, has beaten off keen competition to be named as North West Regional walking football manager, while Billy Legg, who coaches the walking football teams at Ewood Park, has been appointed as his assistant.
Billy was a professional footballer with Huddersfield Town and Bradford Park Avenue in their Football League days, as well as becoming an England youth international before injury curtailed his playing career. He has since enjoyed many decades as a coach in the professional game, most notably within the senior setup at Hull City.
The pair's successful working relationship over the past three years in the walking football scene has proven crucial to them being appointed to the new roles, which will see them hosting trials for the area's best over 50 players, alongside showcase fixtures against other English regions and the national side itself, so that potential internationals can test themselves against the best in the country.
"There was a lot of interest in the job, but I think that the CV that I was able to submit with 26 years of experience at Rovers went for me," explained Hartley.
"Fortunately, those making the decision knew of me because I've taken an active role in the many tournaments that Rovers have entered in recent years. Even if there are games when I'm not in the team, I've been assisting with the coaching and tactical side, so I've become very familiar with this form of the game and the best players within our region.
"My career in football has largely been an off-field role, with plenty of scouting and player development, whereas Billy has the experience of being a player himself and then years of coaching at an elite level, so our experiences compliment each other and will hopefully make it an ideal combination for this exciting opportunity.
"We'll be keeping a very close eye on all the other players at tournaments we enter and we've also invited all the clubs in the area to nominate up to two players each for initial north west trials.
"From a field of 35 players in Stockport at our first trial, we've now narrowed this down to 17 or 18 who will come back to a tournament at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre on Sunday 13th January, and from there we'll select a team to travel to Solihull three days later to take on all the other English regions and help the national team selectors to find players who can potentially make the step up to England standard."
Best wishes to Tony and Billy from everyone here at Ewood Park as they get started in their new roles and fingers crossed we'll continue to increase our international recognition at walking football level, with Rovers' Tony Jones now also an England over 60s international.