A BRADFORDIAN has recalled the time he came across a young Egyptian footballer while working in the country as an ex-pat.

Around 15 years ago Terry Thornton, 68, of Clayton played football with a youngster called Mo Salah who is now a 26-year-old football superstar.

Mr Thornton could tell there was something special about the current Liverpool man. On being asked if Salah’s ability was noticeable he responded simply.

He said: “B****y hell, aye! He was the best player on both teams. In the first game, they won 8-0. I think he got seven of them. He was doing the lot, the full Monty – overheads, volleys…

“He has more beard than he had back then, but he’s still got that passion, he still plays the same.”

Mr Thornton’s nostalgia was first triggered when his son told him about Salah’s monumental season with Liverpool.

He recalls how their games in Egypt took place behind a bunch of trees in a desert area of Cairo on a makeshift pitch with rubble strewn about, but Mr Thornton, who was there setting up looms as an employee of a Bradford textile company, said they had proper nets.

Mr Thornton recalls his shock at the lack of one particular structural feature at the factory they worked at.

He said: “The factory was on a desert road and the building was all castellated – it was beautiful. But there was no roof! I said: ‘haven’t you forgotten anything lads?’”

Matches would see English and German colleagues unite to play against a bunch of locals who used to turn up in a minibus.

The workers would head out to the ‘pitch’ every lunchtime to take a break from the factory and have a kickabout. This included around 12 matches where Salah was involved.

Mr Thornton said: “We didn’t get any nearer. He stood out, his speed stood out – in other words, we couldn’t catch him.”

Salah was on the books of a local club at the time, according to Mr Thornton, and he remembers once seeing two men arrive at dinnertime, who then jumped out of their van, picked up the dangerous bricks from the pitch and warn the players not to hurt Salah, who played barefooted much like his compatriots.

On seeing Salah’s first performance against them, Mr Thornton said the workers decided to “have a whip round” to buy him a pair of trainers to prevent any injuries.

He said: “He was exactly the same as the others, he didn’t have more than anybody else.”

Salah’s faith and humble character is a poignant memory that has stuck with Mr Thornton throughout his life.

He added: “He wasn’t shy, and he’d always do his prayers before and after the match. He was a great guy. If he walked in today he’d buy everybody something. They didn’t have anything, that was par for the course out there. Whatever they had, they shared.”

Ten years ago, after a total of 15 years in Egypt, Mr Thornton had to return England due to ill health, at a time when Salah was beginning to make waves with El Mokawloon in his home country.

Mr Thornton brought back with him an Egyptian wife and had twins with her who support him at the Holly Park Care Home where he now lives.

He looks back fondly on his time in Egypt and what it has brought him to this day, and he’ll always remember Mo Salah.

Mr Thornton said: “When you talk rags to riches – that is rags to riches.”

He added: “Barefoot Millionaire, I like that.”