THIS TEAM OF OVER 60S FOOTBALL FANATICS ARE IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN.
The squad, who play at Bradley Pitches, Grimsby have combined had several heart attacks, strokes and broken bones but they are determined to carry on playing the beautiful game.
With an average age of 65 and the eldest clocking up 70 years, the team of football mad 60-somethings are seeking other teams to set up a league – and they are already lined up to take on a team of pensioners from Bury.
And with an ageing population in North East Lincolnshire, the vision of sports fields being used widely by pensioners could soon become a reality.
The club, which meets every Thursday morning has given the members a new lease of life.
They started in September with just a handful of footy enthusiasts rekindling their past football glories, but have now swelled in number as well as fitness levels.
The squad of up to 15 players now look forward to Thursdays as the highlight of their week – despite recently having to brave snow, frost and freezing winds – even shovelling snow off the all-weather pitch.
The game is played at a slower pace than the Premier League, but the footballers are just as competitive and work up a sweat.
Chairman of the Sunday Football League in North East Lincolnshire Tony Parrott, 70, is a shining example to the hundreds of players who take part in the weekly league.
The inspirational chairman started off the group 35 years after hanging up his football boots.
He formerly played for Hainton Villa and Park United.
He said: “I have spoken to doctors and they all approve because it is walking exercise at a pace. You work up a sweat.
“It is good to come back on to the field after so long. I really look forward to Thursdays.
“We don’t need referees because we are mature enough to sort ourselves out and play quality football and it is improving.
“Most of us played football years ago and are happy with the chance to play in a team again.”
He said a TV programme about a team in Bury had inspired him, especially their number one player, who is 80 and still playing despite having undergone open heart surgery.
The rules of the game have been adapted to keep it competitive for the older players and one of the most obvious is no running.
Tony said: “It’s a very different game to your usual 11-a-side football. You’re walking around making space, it’s very different. You’ve got to work to your limitations. The pace flows and it becomes more competitive.”
Player Dave Winslow, 67, a retired auditor from Tetney, said: “Like everything in life, you get wiser as you get older. As you get older you can’t run about like you used to do, so we’ve got to use the ball more. The standard of passing has improved immeasurably since we started.
“Everyone has adapted to walking rather than running. The natural thing in football is to pass so the player runs on to the ball. But we play to the feet. I feel fitter and Thursday mornings can’t come round quick enough for me.”
Dave played a lot of local league football when he was younger and says he loves the buzz of playing again and having a chat over a coffee afterwards. He said: “It’s just great to play football again. This is like heaven sent really, I just love it. It’s brilliant and I think most of the guys would back me up on that. We’ve got great coaches and I get to see a lot of faces again who I’ve played against in the past.”
Coach Paul Goodhand said the over-60s session has become one of the highlights of his week, adding: “It is impressive the way they keep going.
“It’s great for us as coaches to have that feedback. Some have said it’s changed their lives to have this to look forward to each week. That gives me great job satisfaction and I’m lucky in this job that I get to do these things. If anyone has other ideas like this we’d be happy to listen to them and if it’s possible give it a go.”
Over 60s football takes place on Thursdays from 10am to 11am at Bradley Football Development Centre, Bradley Playing Fields, Bradley Road, Grimsby. CLICK FOR PICTURES
ON THE BALL: Players take part in the over 60s football training session at the Bradley Community Stadium, Grimsby. Pictured are, rear left, Dave Winslow, Ian Dye, Steve Wells, Ken Vincent, Mike Barrett, Kevin Bryant, Bill McWilliam; front left, Tony Drinkell, Paul Goodhand, Steve Palmer, Len Davidson, Tony Parrott. Pictures: Rick Byrne