Tue, Jan
40 New Articles

While Chris Birchall couldn't stop smiling after drawing England in next summer's World Cup finals, mum Jenny's eyes were filled with tears when asked how proud she was.

Birchall qualifies for Trinidad and Tobago as Jenny was born there after her parents emigrated. She settled back in England as an 18-year-old before meeting husband Phil and having sons Chris, aged 21, and elder brother Simon, 23.

Jenny says she never had any concerns that Chris would be accepted when he was called up for Trinidad last May - becoming the first white player to represent the country for 60 years.

However, the unlikely tale took a further twist on Friday night when Birchall, who now has 15 caps for his country, saw his team drawn in the same group as England, Sweden and Paraguay.

Jenny said: "I am absolutely ecstatic, it is just unbelievable.

"The draw is a fantastic result because Chris will be playing against Steven Gerrard, one of his heroes, along with a few more heroes in the England team.

"All the family will be going to watch him play and I will be very honoured and proud to see him.

"Watching Chris play for Trinidad for the first time was fantastic and he has just got better and better from there."

Jenny said she has been overwhelmed by the reception she and her family have been given in Trinidad, but also thanked the staff at Port Vale, who have coached the midfielder since he joined the club's school of excellence as a nine-year-old.

She said: "The manager, Martin Foyle, and everyone at Port Vale have been brilliant with Chris, helping him come through from the school of excellence and the youth team.

"We owe them lots of thanks because they have been great."

However, Jenny - with tongue firmly in cheek - revealed she has also played a part in developing her son's football skills, particularly the long-range goals which have made him a favourite for club and country.

She grinned: "When both boys were little, we used to go to Westbridge Park in Stone on a Sunday. I would be in goal and Phil and the two lads would play out. They could only shoot if they were so many yards out, so it started at a very early age."