Classic Vintage
Thursday 10th March 2016 @ 14:22 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports Stalybridge

Former football enthusiasts are being given the chance to lace up their boots once again thanks to Stalybridge Celtic in the Community.

Following the success of walking football in the previous two years, the club have devised a brand new concept in which veterans are encouraged to take up a more competitive form of the game.

Created in 2011 by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust, walking football has become popularised all over the country.

But despite its burgeoning status, Celtic have decided to go one step further in their quest to promote fitness.

Having found a gap in the market, the club have created another session on Saturday afternoons.

Taking place at Copley Leisure Centre from 3pm until 4pm, the session allows participants to engage in small sided football match where tackling and running is allowed, but crucially is played by older men.

Speaking to Reporter Sport at Bower Fold on Monday morning, Brian Coll detailed the reasons behind the concept. “Walking football is evolving ever so quickly, and it’s become clear recently that there are two schools of thought on the matter.

“The first is to encourage older men to socialise more, and football is a great vehicle for doing that.

“Secondly, a lot of the older guys who used to play football have found it interesting, but they’ve also shown an interest in a more competitive side of the game, but not where they are pitted against opponents thirty years younger.

“As a result of this, Vintage Celtic have created a session on Saturday afternoon which solely focuses on this element of the game – small sided football for “veterans”

Interestingly, walking football was thrust into the mainstream in 2014 through a Barclays TV advert.

The sport has enjoyed rapid growth since then, but Brian believes that more can be done.

Confused at the Football Associations age ruling, Brian added:“The football league considers VETS football to be 35 years and over, but if you’re 50 and still relatively fit, then there’s a massive difference in Physical ability between a 50 year old and a 35 year old.

“This ruling has created a huge gap where older footballers have nowhere to compete on an even footing against players of their own age.”

He continued: “A lot of the lads have seen the Barclays TV advert which promotes walking football, and they don’t feel particularly attracted to it.

“They would feel more inclined to have a go if they could play against someone their own age at whatever level they felt comfortable at.”

Having originally provided one walking football session, the club has expanded its offer to cater for a broader audience. “We’ve got three different sessions now” Brian said.

“We run one on Monday night from 6pm until 7 pm at Astley Sports Village , Dukinfield, which is our long standing walking football competitive session, from which we select players who want to be involved to compete in leagues and tournaments

“There’s a session on Wednesday morning which will be moving to Medlock Leisure Centre in Droylsden from 16th March between 11 am and 12 noon which is a gentle, non-competitive non contact social session which allows men of any ability to come out and give it a try.

“The final session of the week takes place on a Saturday afternoon, which is small sided conventional football where running and tackling is part of the game.”

Such is the popularity of walking football at Stalybridge Celtic, that an 84-year-old takes part on a regular basis. “He doesn’t play in competitions, but he comes along on Monday and Wednesday” said Brian.

In fact, his devotion to the sport is so strong, that not only does he play, but he coaches a junior team as well. Brian added:“On His first session with us, he confirmed his health was OK and his doctor had given the go ahead.

“To start, we organised a small game with absolutely no physical contact.

“Despite a couple of early topples, he soon got going and had a great time being able to kick a ball around again in a game.

“Three weeks later he was getting stuck into the other players.

“He is now a regular and really enjoys it, living proof of how powerful football is, and that you are never too old ”

Having laid the foundations for a promising future, Brian is hoping that the club can lure a new crop of footballers out of retirement, as well as anybody wishing to come along and try. He concluded: “The drive now is to make it appealing to men of all ability.

“If they fancy it, there’s a slot waiting for them at any of our sessions, all of which have the emphasis on enjoyment, having fun and making new friends as well as obviously kicking a ball around.

“I know that none of the other clubs in the area have a walking football team, so Vintage Celtic are pioneers in that respect”.

For more information check out their website: http://walkingfootball-tameside-glossop.uk/

Alternatively, you can contact any of the following:

Brian Coll 07785 35573

Mill Murney 07443 900290

Mike Smith (Community Development Officer) Stalybridge Celtic

(community @stalybridgeceltic.co.uk)