An England fan has been hailed a real-life hero for passing up the chance of a lifetime to see the team play at Wembley to instead help save a life by donating his stem cells and bone marrow.

Sam Astley got the call a few weeks ago to say he'd been found to be a match having signed up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register.

He signed up at the Olly Wilkes memorial football tournament organised annually at Withymoor by Olly's father Simon Wilkes who suffers from a blood disorder and has been trying to raise awareness of the condition and help get more people to donate stem cells to help save lives.

A total of 92 people have signed up to the register at the tournaments remembering 22-year-old Olly, who took his own life, and Sam is the second person to have been declared a match. Matt Beveridge was also found to be a suitable match for a young Spanish woman and he donated his stem cells in 2018.

Now it's Sam's turn and he's due to undergo the procedure at a private clinic in London this week.

To his shock and disbelief, however, his girlfriend Beth Hill recently found out she'd won two tickets in a competition run by Pretty Little Thing on Instagram to see the England football squad play in the Euro 2020 semi finals at Wembley on Wednesday night against Denmark.

But big-hearted Sam has turned down the opportunity as he is due to go into hospital on Wednesday morning ahead of donating his stem cells and bone marrow.

North Wales Pioneer: Sam and his girlfriend BethSam and his girlfriend Beth

Beth who works as a critical care nurse at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, has also had to miss out on the prize of a lifetime as she is the couple have gifted the prize, which includes an overnight stay at The Dorchester and £500 spending money, to relatives.

Friends and family have hailed Sam a real-life hero for going through with the donation instead of living the dream by watching the historic match at Wembley Stadium but he said: "Life is more important than a football game at the end of the day. No football game beats saving someone's life."

Simon Wilkes who organised the stem cell donation events at Olly's football tournaments, said he was overcome with emotion at the gesture by Sam who has never seen England play or been to Wembley Stadium.

He said: "It's a once in a lifetime thing to win that. It's wonderful what he's going to do. He was already sacrificing work time and now he's sacrificing the chance of a lifetime."

Sam and Beth are now hoping they might be able to buy tickets for the Euro 2020 final on Sunday which would be a welcome treat for both young lifesavers.

As well as donating stem cells, Sam is expecting to donate a litre of bone marrow and he said: "Somebody's waiting for the donation but we're not sure which part of the world they're from."

He admitted to being "a bit nervous" about the procedure which is likely to leave him in some discomfort and tired for up to a month but he said he had no qualms about signing up for the register along with girlfriend Beth who also signed up.

Rebecca Pritchard, director of register development at the Anthony Nolan charity, said: “Our donors are incredible people at the best of times, bearing in mind they agree to help a complete stranger in this way.

"But these are extraordinary times. Sam has done an extraordinary and incredibly selfless thing by putting the needs of his recipient, above his own pleasure. What a hero. By doing this he’s giving someone with blood cancer or a blood disorder their best chance at survival and we cannot thank him enough.

"Every person who, like Sam, joins the register, has the potential to help save someone in desperate need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant."

The charity is particularly looking to encourage more men aged 16 to 30 to join the Anthony Nolan register as they are the most likely to be chosen to donate.

The Olly Wilkes memorial football tournament was cancelled this year and last due to Covid but it will go ahead on June 18, 2022.