Football walks back to normality

WALKING footballers may soon be back playing the conventional game they love as a revised, no contact version may end.

And considering the pandemic, things are looking bright at the Denton group.

For there are now more than 80 playing members and grants from the Arnold Clark Community Fund and the Football Foundation have helped them through at Denton Youth FC’s King Street base.

The latter will help to equip up to a dozen volunteers with their own gloves, which are essential as because of the Covid-19 pandemic, players cannot share nor can goalkeepers play with un-gloved hands.

Money will also pay for extra pitch time to help them fully recover from the lay-offs they endured.

In a sign things are returning to normal, the management committee faced ‘Team Thor’ which included youngest player, 47-year-old Tracey Blanchard, when the committee’s average age is 73.

Now it looks like the group will move back to conventional walking football as Alan Richards from the group explained: “We still play our modified game, which is unique but will return to conventional walking football for at least half of the time available.

“We have been cautious and have proceeded at a slower pace than some other groups.  We have aimed for zero contact, with a three-touch format helping in that regard.

“At Denton, we are well organised and tend to ‘go our own way’ but recently conducted an extensive survey of players to decide the way forward.

“The time is right and the indicators look good so we will soon be back playing the way we were before all of this terrible Covid pandemic.

“The conventional game needs goalkeepers though and we have recruited some volunteers for occasional stints between the sticks.”

Denton Walking Football Group is considering entering an Over-70s team into a local autumn league if it goes ahead in Heywood.

But they have struck an arrangement with Hyde United, which will see the sport played at Ewen Fields.

First event is the Tiger Feet festival on June 30, which sees seven squads of seven playing six-a-side games against each other with trophies for the meanest defence and most efficient ‘Sweeper/Keeper.’

And things will be slightly modified as Alan added: “Nobody wants to go home limping because at our kind of ages it takes longer to recover.

“This means the games although not gentle, do rely on a measure of sensible self-restraint which we see on display every week.

“Our ethos is, ‘Results matter, but are not important.’ It was due to take place in May 2020 but for obvious reasons was postponed.

“We feel sure nothing can stop us this time from bringing our unique brand of walking football to a brilliant venue like Ewen Fields.”

And some team names have already captured the venue, including Hydrangeas, Hyde-D-Hi, Jerry-Hat-tricks and Ewen Yours.

From there, there will be sessions on Wednesday mornings over July and August of the ‘Sweeper/Keeper’ three-touch game for those aged 69 and over.

Alan said: “It will be a privilege for our players to play at Ewen Fields in such a renowned football-related environment.

“It will also mean returning to familiar ground for at least two of our number who as young men played for ‘The Tigers in the 1970s, Roy Smith, and his namesake Barry.”

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