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Sat, Aug

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Imagine the story, young winger makes explosive start to career, gets international call-up... fairytale stuff. Yes, and the story of Chris Birchall is even more remarkable, given that Tunstall-born Chris has been called up to play for... Trinidad?!


The crowd is roaring, the searing heat stifles your breathing as tackle after tackle comes flying in, you skip by, look up and bang. The ball is scorching into the net and you've scored. The first white man to have scored for Trinidad in over sixty years.

You are Chris Birchall, Port Vale's 21-year-old winger, for whom footballing life has been one incredibly exhilarating rollercoaster. Birchall's rise to prominence has been nothing short of a miracle.

By his own admission he would probably have just been happy to have a club at the end of the 2003/04 season - but by the penultimate game of 2004/05 it was clear that the young winger was an integral part of manager Martin Foyle's plans.

Yet more surprises were in store for Birchall. Unknown to many, his mother was born in Port of Spain in Trinidad, a Caribbean island just north of the coast of Venezuela.

This qualified him to play for the island's national team - something that was not lost on the manager, Dutchman Leo Beenhakker.

Fairytale

This is where the fairytale starts you see. Chris Birchall is as white as the famous china produced at the nearby Wedgewood and Doulton factories, and he became only the second white international to play for the island in sixty years.

Not bad going for a player who's just undergone his first full season with the Vale!

So, Birchall spent the summer at a training camp before the 'Soca Warriors' played Panama, where he impressed the coaches.

He then made the side for the Panama game where he slotted in nicely alongside fellow English-based players Carlos Edwards and Stern John.

Then came that goal against Honduras - a ripsnorting twenty-five yarder that had the keeper grasping thin air, something that is becoming something of a habit for the youngster following his strikes for Vale.

The goal made Birchall something of a household name on the island and impressed the Caribbean media.

How did it happen?

The man who appears to have orchestrated everything is one Jack Warner, FIFA Vice-President and special advisor to the island's Football Federation.

He found out about his parentage and persuaded some of the British-based Trinidadians to have a word with him about the possibility of playing.

There are currently several British-based 'Trini' in the Football League including Carlos Edwards, Clayton Ince and Stern John, while Dwight Yorke and Shaka Hislop are of Trinidadian descent but no longer play for the national team.

Influencing the young stars...

Birchall has already had an impact on the young footballers coming though on the island.

Their latest child prodigy Sean De Silva has already admitted to the federation's official site that he looks up to the Vale man.

Ironic isn't it? Kids kicking a ball around on Burslem Park could well be charging around shouting the same names as those having a game on the beach in Trinidad...

Carving out a reputation

Stoke on Trent seems to be a natural breeding ground for wingers. Stoke City arguably had the best of the lot in Sir Stanley Matthews, but since then at Stoke and Vale there has been a succession of classy widemen.

Talents such as Alan Hudson, Mark Chamberlain, Terry Conroy, Gareth Ainsworth, Peter Hoekstra and of late Kris Commons have all thrilled Potteries crowds, and there seems no reason why Chris Birchall can't join them...