Kirkland family cash in on England debut

August 17, 2006

The most famous betting slip in England can finally be cashed.

Twelve years ago, when Eddie Kirkland wared £100 at 100-1 on son Chris to play for England, he could hardly have expected it to become a national talking point.

Now, after a few false starts, Kirkland snr can march purposefully down to the bookmakers and collect £10,000 to go with the England shirt which represents one of the proudest days of his life.

For, while he admits to having a few hunts round the house searching for the elusive betting slip, Kirkland jnr had no hesitation in handing over to his parents the jersey he wore for 45 minutes on his international debut against Greece at Old Trafford last night.

'I am delighted dad has finally got his money,' beamed the Wigan keeper.

'I have also given him and my mum the shirt because they deserve it.

'My parents could not afford to put the full £100 on me to play for England at the time, so they put £30 in each and a few of us put a tenner in, including myself.

'I have tried to take the betting slip off him a few times but he always said no. I want to claim at least my tenner back but dad's a very tight man, so I think he will probably invest it in a bond or something and it won't be seen again for another 10 years.'

There must have been plenty of times in those intervening years when, for all his son's talent, Kirkland feared he would never collect his money.

Injuries have cursed the 25-year-old throughout his professional career.

A major ankle injury, followed by a broken finger and a wrist problem effectively ended any hope of becoming Liverpool's regular number one or forcing his way into Sven-Goran Eriksson's plans for Euro 2004.

Kirkland seemed to be benefiting from a loan move to West Brom, only to suffer yet more physical problems, which eventually meant he was ousted from the Baggies line-up by new Manchester United signing Tomasz Kuszczak.

Despite his undoubted potential, few were willing to take a chance on the Leicester-born keeper until Wigan boss Paul Jewell stepped in.

And now, having become the first player in Latics history to play for England, Kirkland has set his sights on repaying Jewell's faith.

'It is weird to think I have played for England before Wigan,' said Kirkland, who will make his senior bow in Saturday's Premiership encounter with Newcastle.

'It is a great boost for the club because they have shown a lot of faith in me.

'They came in for me when nobody else would go near me because of my injury record.

'I have had such a tough time over the past few years. I have always tried to stay positive, even though it has been quite hard at times.

'Everyone gets injuries. I just seem to have had a lot in a short space of time. Hopefully now, I can go on a long run without getting any.'

Kirkland already feels confident enough to start setting a few short-term goals, notably trying to oust Paul Robinson as new England coach Steve McClaren's number one choice.

It seems unlikely the aim will be achieved in time for Kirkland to face Andorra in the opening Euro 2008 qualifier on September 2.

But he definitely feels he has a chance of putting some pressure on the Tottenham man, providing he can enhance his reputation at Wigan.

'I have to believe I can challenge Paul Robinson,' he said.

'What I need to do is push on at club level and repay Wigan for the faith they have shown in me.'