One Direction superstar Liam Payne rented out a non-league football ground to get in some practice ahead of this year’s Soccer Aid match.
The pop star consulted his friend and former Premier League player Greg Halford about the possibility of loaning Billericay Town’s New Lodge stadium. Halford, who has played in the top flight for the likes of Wolves and Sunderland, signed for the non-league side recently and is said to have been the middle man in the deal.
Payne, 28, is certainly taking Soccer Aid seriously. The annual charity football match pits a group of celebrities and former professional players and sees them face off with proceeds from the event going to charity. Payne will this year captain the England side against the Rest of the World, who will be skippered by Athletics’ king Usain Bolt.
A source told the Sun newspaper: “Liam asked Greg on the off-chance him and some pals could use the pitch and Greg got the wheels in motion. He didn’t look too bad considering he has been telling people he’s nervous to be captaining England in such a big game. Him and his mates got stuck in and he was left with a bleeding knee but no lasting damage. Liam looked in good nick.”
Payne took to Instagram earlier this week, admitting he “doesn’t play football”.
He said: “I’ve been doing some training, getting ready for England. Come on England! How does a man that doesn’t play football, captain the England team? It’s a big query for all of us isn’t it, but we’re going to find out. It’s been a stressful one learning to play football actually, but it’s been a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the game.”
Payne was born in Wolverhampton but supports West Bromwich Albion. It is thought he lives near Halford and has become close friends with him since his move to Billericay this year.
The club hit the headlines a few years back when they began to attract a flurry of former top flight players. In December 2016 the club was taken over by Glenn Tamplin, who funded several high-profile signings including Jamie O’Hara, Jermaine Pennant and Paul Konchesky. They would win the Isthmian League Cup in 2016–17 and the following season saw them reach the first round of the FA Cup drawing 1–1 at Leatherhead in the first match and losing the replay 3–1. Tamplin left the club in 2019.
The side are currently bottom of the National League South, with four games of the season remaining. This year’s Soccer Aid for UNICEF takes place at the London Stadium on Sunday, June 12. A special half time show from UNICEF UK Ambassador Robbie Williams will take place on the day. Tickets are now on sale.