In the quiet rural village of Goostrey, England footballer Raheem Sterling is already a local legend – and come what may in the Euro 2020 final against Italy on Sunday night, he can be assured a hero’s welcome back on his return home.
The offer of free pints, tuna paninis and sweets are stacking up from local businesses who are delighted that Raheem, the Cheshire village’s most famous resident, has done so well for England in the tournament.
Goostrey residents are ready to roar on the Lions on Sunday night, particularly at the village’s two pubs, The Crown and The Red Lion, which will be screening the match.
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And locals will be queuing up to offer a pint and a handshake to striker Raheem when he returns to Goostrey.
The Crown’s deputy manager Haydon Browne said Raheem already has local legend status in the village.
The Crown pub in Goostrey (Image: MEN)
Haydon said: “Everyone is getting into the football spirit now and we have a good group of people, a proper community here.
“Raheem has frequented the pub a few times in the past, hes a local celebrity here so if he comes back as a winner we would love to all have a pint together.
“People are good to be fair they dont bother him, although when he’s been in people do all try to buy him a drink. He bought everyone in the pub a round as well!”
Pastimes cafe in the village, with owner Wendy Lingard (right), and staff members Milly Percy and Cal McPherson all cheering on Raheem (Image: MEN)
His kindness is well known in the village, with cafe assistant Milly Percy, 17, recalling a special moment for one Manchester City fan.
She said: “Ive seen him in the pub and hes a really nice guy. I know a lifelong City fan who goes to the pub and Raheem got him a box to watch the final game of the season a couple of years back, he was so chuffed.”
Mind you, in July it’s usually another tournament dominating local attention in this Cheshire village – when the annual Goostrey Gooseberry Show takes over The Crown pub as growers compete for the title of ‘Premier Berry’.
The Goostrey Gooseberry Show winner’s board at The Crown pub. (Image: MEN)
Even the gooseberry growers are happy to let football grab its moment this weekend though, with England flags jutting for attention with the traditional bunting adorning many of the pretty cottages, period townhouses and mansions in the village.
At the small shopping precinct on Main Road, there’s also excitement from local newsagent Nigel Fallon, who has met Raheem a couple of times in the past.
He posed for a picture on a previous visit, after buying drinks and sweets on his way to an England training camp.
Raheem Sterling pictured at Goostrey News (Image: Nigel Fallon/Goostrey News)
Nigel, 64, says: “Raheem has been in here a few times now, he brings his dog for a walk and he signed some autographs – a lot of people support Manchester City around here, as well as Man United and Liverpool of course.
“He seems like a lovely ordinary guy, and it’s great he’s getting all the accolades he deserves for England.”
Nigel says he’s seen a fair few famous faces in his shop over the years – including David and Victoria Beckham during his United years, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Nigel Fallon at his Goostrey News shop (Image: MEN)
Nigel says: “When Ronaldo lived down the road I used to talk to him sometimes, and I remember one time he was having a hot tub put into his garden and the builders, who were all Man City fans, were having a bit of a kickabout.
“Some of the United team came out to see Ronaldo that day and these lads asked them if they fancied a game – and they ended up playing an impromptu game of five-a-side in the garden!”
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Next door to the newsagents is the Pastimes cafe, where owner Wendy Lingard would love to see Raheem back in the village after the tournament – with the offer of a free tuna panini (his favourite apparently) when he returns.
Wendy said: “I dont know footballers really but he came in to the cafe with someone else quite famous I think.
“He goes in all the shops around here, hes really good like that and its always really nice to see him.
“Last time he was here he had a tuna panini and he can have as many as he likes if England win on Sunday!”
Goostrey is on the main train line between Manchester and Crewe (Image: MEN)
Goostrey is further south than the traditional footballer belt in Cheshire’s ‘Golden Triangle’- the wealthy area around Alderley Edge, Wilmslow and Prestbury.
But Goostrey has a wide appeal to homeowners as the village boasts a train station on the main line between Manchester and Crewe, and is only five minutes away from Junction 18 of the M6 at Holmes Chapel.
Raheem and his partner Paige Milian first moved to their £3m mansion in the area when he made his move from Liverpool to Man City back in 2015, and it is now home to their two young sons Thiago and Thai-Cruz.
Newsagent Nigel said: “We might be at the bottom of the Golden Triangle here, but Goostrey is a very desirable place to live because we are so close to the M6 yet still in the countryside.”
Jodrell Bank’s famous Lovell Telescope, as seen from Goostrey (Image: MEN)
Many Goostrey properties also boast some of the best views in Cheshire of Jodrell Bank’s Lovell Telescope – the scientific observatory and local landmark.
Over at the imposing local church St Luke’s, at the heart of the village, Raheem and the England team will be in the thoughts and prayers of parishioners on Sunday morning.
Vicar Heather Buckley says Raheem will definitely get a mention in her Sunday sermon.
St Luke’s Church in Goostrey (Image: MEN)
The Reverend Buckley said: “It is exciting times for the England team and all supporters.
“We have our all-age informal worship this Sunday, the theme being adventurous journeys due to the fact I have just returned from holiday and I will mention Raheem in the service with reference to his footballing “journey!”
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