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Famous faces raise £20,000 in charity football match at Walsall FC - with PICTURES and VIDEO

By Liam Keen | Walsall | Walsall entertainment | Published:

Actors, singers, reality stars and ex-pros were some of the famous faces taking to the pitch for charity.

Two teams full of celebrity stars graced the hallowed turf of Walsall's Banks's stadium today to raise money for the Midlands Air Ambulance charity.

After losing out on Line of Duty actor Stephen Graham at the last minute due to other commitments, the remaining players took to the pitch and raked in around £20,000.

Thousands of people lined the entrance to the stadium and packed out the concourses to get a glimpse of their favourite stars, which included Blue's Lee Ryan, X Factor winner and actor Shayne Ward, and a host of reality stars from Love Island and Geordie Shore.

Among them was James Argent, known as 'Arg' from The Only Way Is Essex.

James Argent singing for the crowd

The 31-year-old left the boots in the changing room and instead came out to sing to the crowd before kick off.

Speaking to the Express & Star he said: "It's an honour to be in Walsall and to sing here, and raise money for the charity."

X Factor favourite and Coronation Street actor Shayne Ward proved popular among fans before, during and after the game.

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Ahead of kick-off, he told the Express & Star it's all about raising funds for charity.

Shayne Ward poses for a selfie

He said: "We've played in Walsall before and we've done these football matches, and it's great, we know that we're going to get a nice turn out because everyone's wanting to put their money into these charities, and that's what it's about.

"It's just a fun day for everyone to get behind a good cause, that's why we do it, to raise as much money as we can.

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Liam Keen's video tweets from the stadium:

"We go through life and complain about the smallest little thing but when we take a step back and look at what families are going through, we need to stop complaining, do something about it and put money into these charities.

"We want to continue doing this as long as we can before our legs give out.

"It's great to have people who are part of the charity we're playing for, playing in the game, it's about them it's not about us.

"We have a laugh, raise money and the more we get the fans involved the better it is."

Eastenders' Matt Lapinskas celebrates his goal in athletic style

Amongst the celebrities were a number of ex-professional players, including former Wolves left-back Lee Naylor.

After retiring from the game in 2015, the 39-year-old has kept busy by doing his bit for charity.

He said: "Anything for charity I'll try and help, especially now that I'm retired.

"It's brilliant and good to get the boots back on and come back to the Saddlers.

"The Midlands is a massive area and the Air Ambulance do a great job, and to have everyone here supporting them is brilliant."

The teams emerge from the tunnel

Alongside the famous faces were two representatives from the Midlands Air Ambulance who also took to the pitch.

Jim Hancox, from Coven in South Staffordshire has been a critical care paramedic for 13 years with the charity and didn't expect to be a part of the match.

The 39-year-old said: "It's brilliant for us to do this, but then also get some game time too.

"It started out as a bit of a joke asking if we'd get the chance to play and then they drafted us in.

"This money will help us to get to more missions and help people and it's humbling for us that these celebrities would come and play football to raise money."

His colleague, Matt Baddison, aged 31, an air desk dispatcher from Codsall, added: "I wanted to come and help out and raise some money.

"We rely on fundraising to keep going and our missions are around £2,500 each time, so quite expensive.

"You can't put a price on a patient's life."

The match finished as an 18-goal thriller as the Fundraising Falcons, in red, defeated Air Athletic 11-7.

Liam Keen

By Liam Keen
Reporter - @LiamKeen_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, primarily covering Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch on 01902 319688.

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