St Helens plasterer makes football final

River Humphreys
River Humphreys

A plasterer’s footie skills have got him all the way to the final of a competition to find a tradesman with the talent of a professional.

River Humphreys, from St Helens, has made it through to the final of the Fiat Professional Tradesman Trials - a nationwide search to find a current tradesman who has the talent to make it as a professional footballer in The Football League.

The 25-year-old is one of 20 entrants who were deemed good enough to have been invited to the exclusive trials day at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre on Friday, June 24.

A talented centre back, River has previous experience in football competitions, having finished as runner up in Wayne Rooney street striker. Before that he played as a youngster for Wrexham FC and currently plays his football for the semi-professional team Runcorn Linnets.

Former tradesman turned professional footballers Stuart Pearce (electrician), Dean Windass (hod carrier) and Geoff Horsfield (builder) will put the 20 finalists through their paces at Bisham Abbey, testing every aspect of their football ability, before eventually selecting one deserving winner that day.

The winner will receive a one-month pre-season trial at a choice of one of the 29 opted in Football League clubs, which include Championship giants Nottingham Forest, Fulham FC and Ipswich Town. The winner will also recieve a £2,000 prize.

The move from the trades to professional football is a well-trodden path. There is a long list of past and present players starting out as tradesmen including current Southampton striker and ex-Burnley and Queens Park Rangers striker, Charlie Austin who was a builder and former Wigan midfielder, Jimmy Bullard, who worked for his father’s painting and decorating company before he hit the big time.

Former electrician and England legend Stuart Pearce said: “It’s a brilliant idea. Could it change your life?

“In this day and age, yes. I’m convinced there is enough talent out there to find a player to go to a pro club for a month and get a contract. There are people out there in the trades who could play in the league.”

Andrea Patti, Fiat Professional marketing manager, said: “Fiat Professional has a proud history of working closely with tradesmen and satisfying their varying needs in terms of mobility and transport. We know that a large percentage of them are football fans and we are proud to be a partner of The Football League.

“Our aim is to find the next big name that has the footballing ability, but just hasn’t had the right opportunity. We look forward to welcoming the selected entrants to Bisham Abbey and can’t wait to follow the eventual winner on what I am sure will be an incredible experience during their one month trial. Let’s hope we’ve found the next Jamie Vardy!”