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Chris Birchall vs Burton

THIS afternoon's World Cup draw will bring back happy memories for Chris Birchall, but matters in Burslem rather than Brazil are at the forefront of his mind these days.

Eight years ago, Birchall was in the Crown Hotel in Stone to watch the draw for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

The midfielder, from Yarnfield, was practically dancing on the ceiling when his Trinidad and Tobago side were paired in the same group as England.

He went on to represent club and country with distinction as Vale's first-ever World Cup finalist helped Trinidad to a draw with Sweden before they suffered 2-0 defeats to England and Paraguay.

That was the highlight of an international career which ended last month when Birchall played his last game for the Soca Warriors in a 2-0 home victory over Jamaica.

The 29-year-old, who qualifies because his mum, Jenny, was born in Trinidad, had retired from international football in the summer, but was invited back for a farewell game.

He said: "I can't believe it is eight years since that draw.

"I was just a whippersnapper then and it was one of the most exciting times of my life.

"I'm sorry to be saying goodbye to football with Trinidad and Tobago because I appreciate everything they have done for me.

"But I also appreciate everything Port Vale have done for me too, including at a young age to get me that opportunity where I was being picked for Trinidad and getting picked for the World Cup.

"I had an amazing time, getting to the World Cup finals and also being unbeaten at home throughout my career.

"But I thought it was time for me. I spoke to Micky Adams and he didn't put any pressure on me, but I always knew my bread and butter was here.

"If I am to play my best football for Port Vale then I can't be flying around the world for friendlies and internationals.

"I called it a day, but it was great of them to invite me back for a farewell game, and I appreciate everything they have done for me.

"But now it is time to concentrate on my club football."

And concentrate in particular on Salisbury tonight as Vale attempt to reach the third round of the FA Cup at the expense of the Skrill Premier promotion chasers.

If selected, there's no doubt Birchall will be working just as hard as if he was lining up against England in the World Cup.

He added: "Working hard is not just as important, it's probably more so against Salisbury because we are favourites and everyone is expecting us to take the game to them.

"When you are the underdogs you are focused on the defensive side of your game, but we will be going all-out to win this one."

Birchall has only started six games this season, but must have a strong chance this evening after playing 90 minutes of last week's 2-0 win at Walsall, a team performance which Micky Adams described as the most hard working he had seen for some time.

Birchall was important to that with an industrious performance on the right of midfield.

He said: "In the last 10 minutes I found myself tracking a runner and doing a sliding tackle in the 18-yard box, so I had to time that well.

"But fans appreciate that more than you putting a cross in.

"It was one of those matches where I found myself doing just as much defensively as attacking.

"But it was a performance we needed after losing at home to Preston. That was dire and all the lads were disappointed."

Another player clearly buying into Adams' work ethic is Chris Lines, who has come back in style after being dropped after the Wolves defeat in August for not doing his defensive duties.

Birchall said: "In the last couple of months I have seen parts of Linesy's game that I didn't know.

"I think now he has complete fitness and we are seeing those bursts of pace that take him down the line. In fact in one game he ran the whole length of the pitch.

"He sets off on one of his runs and you can tell the lads are thinking, 'Here he goes again', because you can't stop him.

"I have 'pinging' passing sessions with him at the end of training and his range of passing is great. The lads like him and hopefully he can stay for a long time.

"He is one of those that we really need in midfield because his dead ball range and the way he puts a cross in is fantastic.

"He is creating a lot of chances and the team really appreciate that."