Former telephone salesman sings for audience of 80,000

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A mobile phone salesman who resigned last year to pursue a career as an opera singer performed before 80,000 football supporters at the final of the Worthington Cup in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium yesterday.

Despite having received no classical training, Lawrence Robinson was enlisted to sing the national anthem after sending a portfolio of his work to the Football League. He gave up his day job to pursue his passion for music last year.

Mr Robinson, who has previously performed at smaller sports events, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I can hardly believe it. I sent a disc I did as a demo and it's worked very well. It's got me inroads into many of the football and rugby fraternities."

Mr Robinson said he had only received vocal training over four to five years but his voice has not been classically groomed at music school. His inspiration appears to be Russell Watson, the opera singer known as the "people's tenor" who was previously a factory welder from Salford and sang at working men's clubs.

"He [Watson] has not been classically trained but he has still gone out there and done it," Mr Robinson said.

Mr Watson's second CD, Encore, has sold 800,000 copies in Britain since it was released in October, making it the only classical album at the top of the pop charts. The record features operatic masterpieces as well as duets with Lulu and Lionel Richie.

In the match, Blackburn Rovers beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1, with the former Manchester United striker Andy Cole scoring the winning goal. As the poor weather made the stadium's retractable roof necessary, it was the first major English football final to be played indoors.