Bristol Rovers hero recalls the hilarious moment that he received call-up for major tournament

Being called up to your country for a major tournament is the ultimate honour - but is there a perfect setting for receiving the news?

Tom Lockyer’s tale of his EURO 2020 call-up is some turn of events. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Lockyer’s tale of his EURO 2020 call-up is some turn of events. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Lockyer’s tale of his EURO 2020 call-up is some turn of events. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Being called up to your country in professional football is the ultimate honour, being called up to a major tournament is even bigger. For Bristol Rovers defender Tom Lockyer, he has been named in Wales’ last two squads for both EURO 2020 and the World Cup in Qatar.

Lockyer, now at Luton Town, may not have played a single minute at either tournament, but he still can take pride in being considered one of the best players in his country. Before the World Cup began in Qatar, Lockyer promised Rovers - the club that he began his senior career at - a shirt, for their role in helping get him to where he is today.

The 27-year-old made his debut for his country whilst at the Gas in 2017, and has gone on to make 14 appearances for the Red Dragons, but has been in and out of the picture, with the likes of Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon, preferred to him.

Lockyer looked to have suffered a cruel twist of fate in what was a memorable season for Luton Town. He had played a major part in helping the Hatters in an unlikely bid for promotion, but had to watch on from the sidelines after undergoing an operation on his ankle.

Not only was he potentially missing out on a play-off campaign, but as a result of COVID-19 delaying the EUROs, he was also set to miss out on playing for his country at a major tournament. He had pushed hard to return and did enough to attend a training camp before the tournament.

Lockyer though received news from the Welsh national team boss that he would not make the cut for the 26-man squad and would have to watch the tournament from home. A decision he understood give his injury problem that year.

He recalled: “I was fit enough to go to the training camp, but he (Page) pulled me aside and said ‘you’ve not had any matches’. I really understood it. I was hurting and it was one of those, ‘all the best’. “I left and I think I was crying to be honest.

“I rang my mates who are from Cardiff and I said ‘boys, it’s not good news’. And they were like, ‘F that, come to the pub and get over it’.

“I’m not a big drinker normally. So we went there and then we went to Depot, the big warehouse. It was the first time I’d been there.”

At the end of May, it was time for Lockyer to recover and wind down, following a season which saw the Hatters lose to Huddersfield Town in the play-offs. His discussion with Rob Page, resulted in him catching up with his friends from Cardiff, who had tried to encourage him to get over the heartache of missing out on a call for EURO 2020.

He made his way to Depot, to relax with his friends when an unexpected call came through. A doctor from the Welsh set-up rang him, and had brought him the news that his heartache would turn into delight. A player in his position had to withdraw and he would find himself as one of the players on the plane, jetting off to Azerbaijan.

The only problem? He’d been ordered to go get drinks by his friends, who were expecting their drinks. As time went on, they were dumbfounded as to what was taking so long. It wasn’t until Lockyer slipped out and joined up with his national team teammates.

He added: “I was at the bar getting some drinks for the boys and the doc rang me. He said ‘something’s happened with James Lawrence, we’ll need you back in camp just in case.

“Where are you now?’. And I thought ‘s***!’. “The best thing was, I told him where I was, and he said because of Covid, ‘don’t say goodbye to anyone, just leave’.

“I’m in the taxi on the way back to the Vale, a few pints deep and half cut, I get a message from the boys, my phone’s going off, ‘Locks, where’s all the drinks mate?’. “I’m in the taxi, I just said ‘see you later boys, I’m going to the Euros!.”