Blackburn Rovers Community Trust walking footballer Tony Jones has been called up to the England over 60s team for their international match against Wales on Saturday.
Having missed out on playing in the inaugural international earlier this year, Jones was selected following an impressive display in a squad training session at Nottingham in July.
Jones hung up his 11-a-side boots aged 59 after a long career with Whinney Hill FC in Accrington and took up walking football two and a half years ago. But he could never have dreamt of this opportunity.
He said: “It’s hard to rationalise this latest phase of my career but I am honoured and immensely proud to be asked to pull on the England shirt and represent my country.
"My favourite football story to tell had been that I stopped playing competitive 5-a-side when I was 62 because the team folded as most of them returned to university. That tale will now take second place.”
Jones started playing walking football after his son saw an article advertising the sport on the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust website.
"I recognised one of the players in a photo and thought I might as well give it a go. I was immediately hooked. The whole thing is focussed around the health and social benefits for older men of getting out and getting active.
“There is a really friendly atmosphere to our sessions at the BRIC and we have players of all levels of ability."
The off shoot from the formation of over 1,000 playing groups all over the country has been the competitive side of the game. This has led to league and cup competitions and ultimately the formation of the Walking Football Association and national teams.
Rovers have a good record in local and national tournaments with strong squads at both over 50s and over 60s and are recognised as being among the leading clubs in the country.
That has been the springboard for Jones and Trevor Hanson, his team-mate in the Blues’ over 50s side, to be picked to represent their country.
"The strength of the lads that we play alongside every week at Rovers has undoubtedly helped to put us in the spotlight and ultimately to get selected. It really is a team effort," Jones added.
Hanson played for England Over-50s in their first ever game - a 2-0 success over Italy at Brighton and Hove Albion’s AMEX Stadium. Jones is looking for the same sort of success on his debut for the Over-60s team.
"I will be disappointed if we do not come away with a win but I have to think that at our age it really is all about playing the game. And it's probably been that at every age for me. I can't wait for Saturday.”
Jones has a family history of turning out in blue and white halves. His dad represented Rovers as a goalkeeper for almost nine years in the 1960s alongside Bryan Douglas and Ronnie Clayton, and his granddad also played between the sticks for the likes of Bolton and Cardiff in the top flight. Now it is his turn to be in the public eye.
"I would also like to say thank you for the tremendous support, encouragement and good luck messages from my family and friends and from all the lads, coach Billy Legg and the rest of the staff at the BRIC."
Both the over 50s and 60s national sides face Wales at Barry Town this weekend.