Wigan Athletic star 'buzzing' at prospect of facing Lionel Messi

From non-league to Lionel Messi in the space of a decade - that's the 'incredible journey' Wigan Athletic defender Curtis Tilt will continue on Tuesday.

Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, who will be marked by Latics defender Curtis Tilt during Tuesday's friendly against Jamaica
Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, who will be marked by Latics defender Curtis Tilt during Tuesday's friendly against Jamaica

The 31-year-old centre-back was a late call-up to the Jamaica squad for next week's friendly against Argentina and Messi.

Even the venue is fairytale, with New York playing host to the big game - leaving Tilt still pinching himself.

"I'm buzzing to be fair, not only to be selected for my country, but playing against the best player in the world really," he said prior to flying out to the States.

"I was called up late, so I've not had much to process it yet.

"I'm sure I'll get more anxious nearer the time, wondering what it's like to play against the very best.

"But New York as well...I've never actually been, I was thinking of going out during the winter break.

"It's come a little bit early, so hopefully we'll get a chance to have a look round at some of the sights."

Tilt's story is pure 'Roy of the Rovers' stuff.

Between the age of 16-20 he wasn't even playing football, instead working 10-12 hour days in a quarry in the Midlands.

After a spell in non-league, he entered professional football with Blackpool a month before his 26th birthday in 2017, before joining Latics three years later.

"I was talking to my family about it the other day, the incredible journey I've been on," he said.

"Coming up from non-league, I don't even know what level it was, playing just out of the love for the game along with my friends.

"Eight or nine years later, to be playing international football, against not just the elite but the very best, is amazing.

"It's also a great chance for me to see where I am, how far I've come.

"You always want to test yourself against the best, and it doesn't get any better than this.

"And it'll allow me to assess where I stand, and how far I still have to go.”

Tilt’s call-up hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers either.

"The lads have all been on to me to get his shirt, most of them want a signature, anything with Messi on it,” he laughed. “I told them I'll try and cut some of his hair off...!"