Walking football is on the rise
Saturday 6th December 2014 @ 13:48 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

Football has become a massive part of the Tameside community in recent years and the borough currently boasts a number of reputable clubs.

Bill Murney amongst his walking football colleagues.

Bill Murney amongst his walking football colleagues.

Ranging from the Vanarama Conference North down to grass root clubs, the scope for progression is certainly there.

The broad age spectrum reiterates the growing appetite both men and women have to participate in the sport which currently attracts 687,000 people through the premier league gates every week!

However, those with a spring in their step probably won’t have considered the impact football can have on the older generation, who have hung up their boots after succumbing to the inevitable problems that accompany old age.

Chesterfield Football Club came to the rescue in 2011 and provided the antidote to the escalating problem.

The Spireites, who currently ply their trade in the Sky Bet League 1, devised the concept of walking football which is currently renowned for increasing popularity.

Attention surrounding the new found craze found its way to Tameside recently and has gained considerable traction since its introduction.

Age UK Tameside, in partnership with Active Tameside, have spearheaded the walking football initiative in order to help those who may be living with an impairment to venture outdoors and reclaim a healthy lifestyle.

I was therefore lucky enough to have caught up with Bernadette Ashcroft and Bill Murney last month who introduced me to the basics of the latest craze and shed some light on its beneficial aspects.

As Chief executive of Age UK Tameside, Bernadette is making it her priority to guide the older generation in a healthier direction.

She told reporter sport “We know there’s a growing population in Tameside so it’s our job to help them live a fuller life as possible.

“There are instances in your life that can affect wanting to stay healthy, such as ill health, bereavements, accidents or falls, so we’re looking at different ways people can keep active within the community.”

Burnadette’s crusade to achieve that aim is aided by 100 dedicated volunteers, who all work tirelessly to keep the charity’s heart pumping.

She added “We have over 100 volunteers that help us and many actually provide face to face support for older people themselves.

“We’re opening a new shop on Warrington Street just before Christmas which will act as an information point for the general public on top of generating funds to subsidise our work.”

The Ashton based store will be opening its doors to the public as the festivities kick in, providing a number of bargains for last minute shoppers!

The charity has spread its wings of late and acknowledged the growing desire for people to keep active.

Bill Murney was introduced to the concept of Walking Football following his wife’s death in January, and according to the 69 year old, the sport has revolutionised the way he feels.

He told reporter sport “I’ve always been active in sport and played football competitively over 40 years ago. “After seeing a poster advertising the sport in the doctors, I gave Mick Owen who runs it a call and went down to a session which was absolutely brilliant.

“It’s not only a physical workout, but it’s a social occasion as well.”

Bill isn’t the only person to have fallen in love with the sport, as numerous others have succumbed to its charm.

He added “There’s guys there with new knees, new hips and new hearts, and there’s even two guys there that are death.”

Since his introduction to the sport at the start of this year, Bill has ignited a relationship that appears to be strong.

He currently takes part in two sessions a week, the first which takes place on Mondays from 2-3pm at Kenward Sports centre in Hattersley and the second coming three days later at Glossopdale Community centre on Thursdays from 11-12pm.

Those who think walking football is isolated from the youth of today would be mistaken though, with Bernadette hailing the attraction it has on younger generations who may be suffering from limitations.

She said “The sport is also available to younger people as well who may not be able to play normal football for certain reasons.”

The recognition the sport currently receives bodes well for the future and is a prospect Bill seemingly relishes. He said “I think it’s going to grow the same way ladies football did and I can envisage leagues within the country in the next few years!”

Those interested pursuing a healthier lifestyle can find out more about walking football on the following website: www.walkingfootball/tameside/glossop.uk