Ipswich Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover has achieved his schoolboy dream – he stuck the ball in the back of the net at Wembley and he did it for his country.
He was playing for an England Select XI against an Austrian side including two former international players and, despite losing 4-1, it was a day to remember in front of a “packed” crowd of around 40 people.
Contacts at local bookmaker Kruilland invited him to take part in the match after its parent company had booked Wembley Stadium for a last corporate function. The company’s Austrian branch office became the opposition and the stage was set.
“We had the lot. We had use of the changing rooms, we walked down the Wembley tunnel in England kit, stood while the national anthems were being played and were introduced to the FA officials,” said Pickover.
“They even played crowd noise over the sound system and videoed the whole match.”
It was a rain-soaked Pickover in the first half who pounced on a loose ball in the area after the Austrian keeper had spilled a 25-yard shot.
“At 44 years old, 5’8″ and 13st something I’m a trifle past my best but I used my brains to make up for the lack of fitness, followed the shot in and had my chance, the one chance in the entire match…and I buried it!”
Wembley has never seen the like and the luxurious goal celebration was coincidentally witnessed by an ever-present Evening Star photographer.
“I did the whole works. I ran careering towards the camera and then stuck my shirt over my head. They increased the sound of the crowd noise. It was a moment I’ll never forget.”
He even picked up a medal from a lookalike HRH The Queen after climbing the famous Wembley steps to the royal box.
“The thought has struck me,” added Pickover, “if England fail to score against Germany in the final match at Wembley next month, I shall be contacting the Guinness Book of Records to say that I was the last English man to score a goal at the Wembley Stadium!”
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