RAF man from Leeds is flying high after getting hands-on role at cup final

Tom Claisse in footballing action.
Tom Claisse in footballing action.

He might not be one of the stars of the professional game but talented Leeds footballer Tom Claisse will still have a key role to play at the FA Cup final this weekend.

Tom, a corporal in the Royal Air Force and captain of the UK Armed Forces football team, has been chosen to carry the cup up to the royal box at the end of the big match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley.

Tom Claisse was a double winner at last week's RAF Football Association awards dinner.

Tom Claisse was a double winner at last week's RAF Football Association awards dinner.

The 31-year-old, originally from Burmantofts, was picked for the honour in recognition of his commitment to armed forces football since joining the RAF in 2011.

His duties on Saturday also form part of RAF100, a programme of events marking the centenary of the founding of the air force.

Leeds United fan Tom, who works in flight operations at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and has served in Afghanistan, will collect the cup once it has been engraved at Wembley with the name of the victorious team.

He will then take the famous piece of silverware to the royal box, ready for one of the waiting VIPs to present to the winning captain.

Tom Claisse serving in Afghanistan.

Tom Claisse serving in Afghanistan.

The job of handing over the cup normally falls to Prince William as he is the president of the Football Association.

It is not yet clear, however, if he will be able to make it to Wembley this year, due to the small matter of his brother’s wedding earlier in the day.

With or without William, it will still be a hugely proud moment for Tom, who has a partner, Lauren, and two children, six-year-old Lola and two-year-old Teddy.

He told the YEP: “It’s a massive honour, one of the biggest I could have.

“I’m excited but I am a bit nervous as well. I’m not normally a nervous person but I just don’t want to fall up the steps!

“Since it was announced I’ve had a bit of stick at work from people saying don’t do this, don’t do that.

“My kids will be watching on TV and my partner is coming and will have a nice seat, so it should be a great day.”

Tom, a midfielder who has also played for Tadcaster Albion, Ossett Town, Ossett Albion, Bradford Park Avenue and Farsley Celtic, added: “It shows the RAF in a good light.

“I’m just a normal lad from Leeds 9 and this is what I’ve ended up doing.”

Saturday’s occasion will cap a memorable month for Tom, as he was named player of the year and players’ player of the year at the RAF Football Association awards dinner last week.