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Former Clitheroe striker selected for England C squad months after leaving Shawbridge

Kurt Willoughby in action for Clitheroe
Kurt Willoughby in action for Clitheroe
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Just over four months since leaving Clitheroe, striker Kurt Willoughby has received his first call-up to the England C squad.

The non-league Three Lions were in action last night against Estonia.

The striker, who left Shawbridge for National League North side FC United iof Manchester at the end of May, was named in the panel for Wednesday’s game, which was held at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road ground.

It marks a rapid rise for the 22-year-old, after a goal-laden spell with the Blues.

He started out scoring goals for fun for Foxhall in the Blackpool Youth League.

From there he went on to spend time at AFC Blackpool, where he scored 40 goals in half a season for the Mechanics.

He netted another 30 in the first half of the next campaign, bringing him to the attention of then Clitheroe boss Simon Garner.

He spent two and a bit seasons with the Blues, ending last term as the Evo-Stik North’s second leading scorer with 26 goals, and a place in the league team of the season.

That saw him snapped up by FC United, jumping up two divisions, and he has already scored five times this season.

“It was a surprise to get the call-up,” Willoughby told Advertiser Sport. “I knew it was possible. It’s my first time in that league but you never know who is watching.

“I had a good start, so it’s something I had my eye on but I didn’t think it would come as quickly as it did.

“It’s probably one of the proudest moments of my career so far. It’s a massive thing to be called up. It’s big for my confidence and I’m looking forward to it.

“It’s all happened fairly quickly. I was at AFC Blackpool for a bit, then I moved up to Clitheroe. I did well there and then moved up to FC United.

“Now I’m hoping to carry on and keep going as high as I can. Obviously getting an England C call-up and playing for them will look good for me. A lot of people will be watching, so we’ll see how it goes.

“Obviously it’s not the main national team but it’s going in the right direction, so I’m hoping to play, play well and score, and then see where it takes me.

“My main aim is to get that goal. Whether I play good, bad or whatever, I just want to make sure my name is on the scoresheet because that’s what I do and that’s what makes me happy.

“I’ve played at big grounds before. I’ve been at professional clubs before, but it’s always nice to play on a nice surface at a big stadium. Hopefully there’s a few fans watching too.”

Simon Howarth, who managed Willoughby for two seasons at Clitheroe, before himself moving on to Stalybridge Celtic in the summer, had said last season: “He could be playing several leagues higher. His career can only go onwards and upwards. He’ll definitely go higher in his career. People are always interested in a natural goalscorer.”