Billy makes surprise England debut

Billy makes surprise England debut

Debut day: Billy Walsh, circled back row, with, front from left, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Michael Owen, Fabio Capello, Rio Ferdinand and David Bentley

Three lions on his shirt: Billy Walsh

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First published in Sport by

BY his own admission, his fitness levels are not quite good enough to earn him a place in the England team.

But football fan Billy Walsh still made the grade for a specially assembled line-up to launch the squad's new away kit.

Pictured alongside Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand and new manager Fabio Capello, Billy sported the red shirts worn by their heroes.

Manchester City fan Billy earned his moment of glory after entering a national newspaper phone-in competition. He and 19 others were selected at random after correctly answering a question.

Billy, aged 49, of Fourth Avenue, Heaton, was invited to stand alongside the new England manager and members of his first ever squad to help launch the red and white strip.

He said: "Meeting the players was fantastic. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which I will probably never experience again.

"The big moment was when the curtain dropped and all the media cameras started flashing at you.

"The new kit was great, but I wish they had an extra large - I'm not as fit as I was and the medium size was a bit too small for me."

Billy, a long-distance lorry driver for the Army, also got to meet England player Sean Wright-Phillips and David Bentley while he spent two hours rubbing shoulders with Capello and the squad at the five-star Grove Hotel, in Watford.

Billy, who was a midfield player for Bolton St Thomas's in his younger days, said: "The new kit is great. Having the badge in the middle of the shirt makes it more prominent. It stands out more for photographs."

Billy had his shirt signed and now plans to put it in a frame.

An Umbro spokesman said: "The launch ran very well. The fans got a chance to stand alongside the players and reveal the shirt to the public. They were delighted to attend."

The kit made its first appearance in Capello's debut game at Wembley against Switzerland on Wednesday, February 6, when England secured a 2-1 win.

The shirt goes on sale on March 12 and will be worn by England's players during their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, which begins in September.

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