Kieffer Moore has gone from lifeguard to international footballer and is now determined to carry on making waves in Wales‘ Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
Wigan striker Moore marked his first competitive appearance for Wales by scoring in the 1-1 draw against Slovakia on Thursday.
It was the high point of an extraordinary story that has seen Moore trawl the non-league circuit from Truro to Dorchester and become a Viking in Norway.
Torquay-born Moore was also capped by England C, the team representing non-league players, before moving up the football pyramid.
The journey took in Yeovil, Forest Green, Torquay, Ipswich, Rotherham and Barnsley before a reported £3million summer move to Wigan.
Wales were made aware of Moore’s grandparental qualification to play for them, and the 6ft 5ins forward made his debut in last month’s friendly win against Belarus.
But it was at Trnava’s Anton Malatinsky Stadium where Moore made a bigger splash than any during his days as a part-time swimming pool lifeguard.
“I didn’t save any lives when I was a lifeguard,” Moore, 27, said of his past life.
“It was mainly sitting on a chair watching people swim. But I’ve had some journey to get to this point.
“I’m very grateful for that journey and I believe it has helped me get to where I am now.”
Moore’s journey around the lower leagues was interrupted by a one-season stop at Norwegian club Viking in 2015/16.
But the big-time was still a distant prospect when he was in the United States on holiday supporting Wales at Euro 2016.
It was not until he shone in south Yorkshire at Rotherham, during a season-long spell from Ipswich, and Barnsley that Moore’s star firmly rose.
Moore scored 13 goals in 22 league appearances at Rotherham and 23 in 55 games for a Barnsley side he helped secure promotion to the Championship.
“I wouldn’t say there was a point when I didn’t think I would make it here, it was just when,” he said.
“It’s been very up and down, but the trajectory of my career is now on the up.
“I believe I have not got to this point just by luck. I’m a very hard worker and I’ve given my all to get to this point in my career.
“Sometimes you look around, see these players, and think ‘wow’. But at the end of the day it’s a football match – and it’s 11 versus 11.”
Moore is now set to start against Group E leaders Croatia in Cardiff on Sunday as Wales seek to keep their Euro 2020 qualification hopes alive.
Wales are three points behind second-placed Slovakia but have a game in hand on their rivals.
The Trnava draw also means Wales, who beat Slovakia 1-0 at home in March, have the advantage in the head to head record against their rivals – the deciding factor should they finish with the same number of points.
“I think I’m a very unusual player for international football and it’s a massive plus,” said Moore, who had his head cut open and glued after receiving some heavy punishment from Slovakian defenders.
“You don’t see many players who can do what I do. It’s always an advantage.
“The manager (Ryan Giggs) just said ‘be a nuisance’ and told me to try and hold the ball up, win everything and give the defence a hard time.
“I believe I did that and to get a goal on my competitive debut was an amazing feeling.”
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