“I felt incredibly emotional when I heard the national anthem ringing in my ears and it’s an experience I will never forget.”
Like most young, budding goalkeepers, Andy Warrington grew up dreaming of one day pulling on an England jersey and playing at a World Cup tournament.
And earlier this summer, the former Buxton stopper’s ambition was finally realised as he pulled on his gloves in the sweltering 35 degree heat of the Thailand sun - at the grand old age of 39!
Warrington, who made over 500 appearances in the Football League for clubs including Rotherham and Bury, was a member of the England squad which was knocked out in the semi-finals of the Seniors World Cup trophy in Phuket, losing 1-0 to the hosts.
Warrington was even joined in Thailand by current Bucks’ player-assistant Tim Ryan.
“The competition is organised to promote health and wellbeing amongst the Thai population and help spread the development of football in the country,” Warrington said.
“But it also gives us the chance to pull on our boots once again.
“I felt right at home in the squad, we had a great team spirit.
“England have entered a team for the last eight tournaments, and it was an honour to be part of the squad for the first time.
“Hopefully I’ll be here next year again – if the wife lets me!”
To qualify to play in the tournament, which also featured Iran, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Scotland, players must be over 38, and each side must have four players aged between 44 and 50, and three over-50s, on the 4G pitch at any time.
The matches were played over the reduced time of 80 minutes with four quarters to help players in the scorching conditions.
“The facilities were incredible and the standard of football was very high even in those temperatures,” Warrington added.
“The rules made the games very interesting with substitutions as not only did we have to think of positions, but ages as well.
“Our team rotation did very well because we had a brilliant mix of experience and some good, young legs this year.”
England progressed from their group as runners-up, behind three time winners Iran, to set up a semi-final clash with Thailand, thanks to a 1-0 victory over New Zealand, a 4-1 win against Taiwan and a crucial 1-1 draw with the overall champions, in a match which saw Andy save a penalty.
“The atmosphere was electric as we stepped onto the pitch and so many local people came to watch,” said Warrington.
“The hosts unfortunately scored very early on in the game and we couldn’t pull it back.
“At the end we all felt agrieved, especially towards the Thai officials because we felt they were biased.
“We had high hopes being champions but instead we were left with a sour taste in the mouth.”
The Lions, boasting over 2,500 career appearances between them, did depart on a high note – finishing in third place due to a dominant 4-1 play-off victory over Australia.