Chris Woakes was talented trainee footballer and almost snubbed cricket

Chris Woakes has been tasked with leading the England bowling attack on their tour of the West Indies, with the 33-year-old their most experienced seamer in the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

England's interim managing director Sir Andrew Strauss has asked Woakes to embrace a "senior leadership role" and the World Cup winner is keen to impress in the Caribbean.

However, things could have been very different for Woakes, who was also a promising footballer in his youth and was once offered a contract by Walsall as a teenager.

Woakes was part of their school of excellence and forced to make a decision between football and cricket.

He ultimately chose to pursue cricket with Warwickshire and made his first-class debut as a 17-year-old in a tour match against the West Indies in 2006, before becoming an England international in 2011.

"I played football until I was about 14 but then I chose to go down the cricket route," Woakes reflected after his England debut.

"I had a contract with them [Walsall] until I was 16 but I got offered the Warwickshire academy so I decided to take that a bit more seriously."

Woakes' older half-brother, Dave, told the Times: "He was a good player, a right-sided midfielder. The family joke is that he went for cricket because he knew he would get muddy playing football."

However, the all-rounder did admit to childhood cricket coach Keith Forman that he might have picked football had he been offered a contract by his beloved Aston Villa instead of Walsall.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Forman, who coached Woakes at Aston Manor cricket club, said: "He was a super footballer as a kid. At 14 he had to make the choice between football and cricket.

"He'd often say, 'If I was on Aston Villa's books I would have made the choice of football', but thankfully he wasn't. I think it was the best decision he ever made."

Woakes has supported Villa since he was a child, with his father Roger passing on his love for the club.

"Villa have been in my blood since day one," Woakes told Villa's official website. "My Dad's always been a huge fan, and always used to tell me stories of being on the terraces as a youngster.

"He's a local lad and I was born in Birmingham, so I've been claret and blue since that moment. I've loved the club for as long as I can remember.

"One of my first games was Nottingham Forest at home in 1996, where we beat them 2-0 after goals from Carl Tiler and Dwight Yorke.

"I'd have only been about six at the time. But I remember clear as day sitting in the Doug Ellis stand and looking at what was a very different stadium for the first time back then.

"From that afternoon, I was well and truly in love with the club."

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