Never too old to play the beautiful game

Players’ Points Of View

Club Founder


Club Founder

 Age 68

Today – February 2023

I was mightily impressed on seeing the new Canterbury Mariners website, and delighted to see some familiar faces. Reading their written experiences of walking football made my heart soar like a hawk … and then I was asked to contribute, too.

When I started the club in 2014, the last thing on my mind was that eight years later, I’d be writing a piece for the website of a successful club, with scores of members, most of whom I’d never met!  (I moved to France over three years ago.)

Rewind to June 19th, 2014 … 

I always remember the date as it’s my daughter’s birthday. I am therefore rushing home from my teaching job at a school in Sittingbourne, along the A2 on my motorbike. A car pulls out and I slam into the side of it at 50 mph; broken arm, knee and pelvis.

Laying up at home, unable to work or go to the gym, I see an advert on TV for Barclays Bank, and there’s ordinary bloke in his sixties. “I’ve invented a new sport for the over 50’s – walking football.”  There’s footage of a game in progress … I turn to my wife, Sheila, and say, “I’d love to do that.” Always supportive, she instantly replies, “Well, why don’t you then!”

As it’s a ‘new’ sport there’s nothing available locally, so I make a few inquiries and an organisation called ‘Active Life’ agree to get involved and facilitate some initial funding through the FA. The admin has started to pile up and I’m now back at work.  I am becoming overwhelmed.  Luckily, Sheila is a professional administrator and agrees to act as club secretary, otherwise I’ll probably throw in the towel … I just want to play football!

Well, we’ve got some funding, an astroturf pitch to play on at Canterbury Cricket Ground, an administrator … trouble is, we haven’t got any players!  I put posters up all over Canterbury, but the initial response is sparse. I find myself wandering up to lone males in Waitrose who look about the right age, and whispering, “Pssst, do you want play football?” I guess some think I might be peddling drugs – or worse – and they scurry off to the check out! 

Fast forward to Winter 2014 …

James Lennox, Barry Wilcox, Giles Seaford from Active Life, and I are playing 2-a-side at the Cricket ground in the snow, with the funding running out and wondering where next week’s pitch fees were coming from!  

Rewind to Summer 1966 …

I’m 12 years old and I’m sitting at home bored, England have recently won the World Cup; I pick up the football and call round for my best mate Paul, who is already wearing his West Bromwich Albion shirt. As a lifelong Wolves fan, I found this hard to take, but a mate is a mate. On the way to the pitch at the top of the village, we knock on doors and others soon join. 

Within ten minutes I’m no longer that 12-year-old boy with average skills and limited prospects; I’m Geoff Hurst running in on goal, clear of the West German defence; there’s people on the pitch but I don’t see them, and I blast the ball with all my strength and heart – it flies into the top corner, the goalkeeper’s nowhere, the crowd goes wild.

Fast forward to Spring 2015 … 

As more new members appear each week, I no longer see men well into the second half of their lives (some in extra time!)  I see boys, teammates, players – England players, Charlton, Ball, Peters, Hunt, Stiles, Banks, Moore – they’re suddenly all here again. For that moment in time, every week, the dream is true.

Today again …

What does walking football mean to me? Well, I have to be honest, in the beginning it was self-interest – I just wanted to have a kick about with some mates once a week. It was only when others, total strangers, started turning up that the scales fell from my eyes to reveal the fact that time travel is indeed a reality.

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Gareth Gainard

Age 50

I suppose I need to start with the place that football has in my life. I was a young boy back in the early 80’s, supporting Bristol City with my Dad and Grandad – a generation of lifelong fans – and they taught me to love the game.

There was the smell, the atmosphere, the meaning to thousands of diehard fans when you win, and the sullen look on faces when you lose. Walking back with a spring in your step to whatever mode of transport took you to your Mecca for those few hours of heart-wrenching elation and excitement but, more often than not, trudging back in disappointment. 

However, I actually always preferred playing to watching, and really enjoyed the anticipation of a game on a Saturday and Sunday, playing local football from the age of 15 at a decent level. I made lifelong friends, even those I’ve not seen for 30 years, yet still we share a bond – team mates forever. 

I retired at 30 due to promotion in my working life, never to play a competitive match again. Or so I thought!! 

Thanks to a close friend, the introduction was made to walking football a couple of years back, and the excitement of buying new boots all these years later was a feeling I never thought I would experience again!  Likewise, the anticipation of six o’clock on a Friday night, the banter and laughter that comes with being part of a team again, the chance to lace up my boots and set foot on a football pitch, and that rush of adrenaline when the ball hits the back of the net! 

There is a great feeling of well-being, both physically and mentally, and the release of any stresses which are forgotten for that moment in time. 

So, to answer the question – what does walking football mean to me? Well, it makes me feel like a kid again! 

Dave Rayner

Age 72

Growing up in Yorkshire, all we ever wanted to do was play football. Up to the age of 18, I played for a very successful local youth team, Weston Lane, that had very close links with Leeds United. We had Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter running some of our training sessions, and they suggested that I play as a sort of sweeper at the centre of defence. 

One of my biggest assets was speed!  I know my fellow Canterbury players reading this now will have gasped with incredulity at that statement but, in Norman’s words, which I shall always remember, “With your speed at the back, you can hunt down all the attackers!”

Two things stood me out from the crowd at school in the 6th form.  I was the only one with a moustache (that included staff!),  and I had early signs of emerging white hair. That proved very useful in my local football career in Kent; I have played against many embarrassed attackers who have fallen for their colleagues’ advice of “Push it past that old bloke at the back,” only to find that I was faster than them, was able to follow Norman Hunter’s words and could indeed ‘hunt them down’. 

Now, enough of the Roy of the Rovers stuff and back to reality.

It is ironic that, when I joined Canterbury Walking football club after many years in the footballing wilderness, the only thing that I couldn’t use from that past life was speed!  Nevertheless, I could still make it difficult for attackers, and I retained my passing attributes. 

Who would have thought that after several years’ exposure to the delights of walking football, I would have made everlasting friends, had lots of laughter and camaraderie, enjoyed international success representing the club playing in Portugal, become a quizmaster in our social events, and had subsidised coach trips around the country travelling to games. Even my wife has made lasting friendships with colleagues’ wives and partners. 

The welcoming nature of all club members, and the continued thrill of ‘hunting down attackers’ have made this one of the best experiences of my life.

Jonathan Butcher

Age 57

It was February 2015, when I was recovering from damaged ankle ligaments and a broken leg, that I saw a local press article by the Kent FA and Active Life about Walking Football. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and had lost touch with any social life I may have had, so I contacted them to find out more. 

I explained that I was not 50 until May, and had not played any competitive football since the age of 13, but thought it could be good rehab for my injury. They were very helpful and put me in touch with Canterbury Walking Football. 

After a few weeks thinking about it, I mustered up enough courage to go along and give it a go. Although I was totally out of my comfort zone, it really was one of the best things I had ever done. It has helped me get fitter and improved my football (possibly – I’ll let others decide on that statement!) 

Having now played for seven years, I particularly like the fact that everyone is welcoming and encouraging, that all abilities are able to play together and the rules, generally, are a real leveller. I have made some very good friends and there is a real feeling that people do look out for each other. This is probably because we have already lived the majority of our lives and have all experienced different things along the way which shape the way we are. 

Everybody has some baggage, good, bad or indifferent, so playing football is a chance to forget it all and enjoy yourself for 60 or 90 minutes. I can feel pretty miserable before going to football on a Friday evening yet, after playing, I find myself driving home in a much better frame of mind, looking forward to the weekend. It’s therapy that also keeps you fit!

I am probably not the most competitive person and only really play for enjoyment, whereas some will be far more competitive than me, but that is not the point as far as I’m concerned. It’s all about the good it does to mind and body.

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Cedric Russell

Age 75

I have loved football all my life, starting with the proud moment I put on my primary school football kit for the first time – and winning the Chadwick Cup for Primary schools in the Folkestone District at the age of 11 – 65 years ago!

At the age of 17 my careers officer gave me the choice of working down the Snowdown coal mine, or a job in London!  So off I went to London and began work in Tottenham Hale a mere 30-minute walk from White Hart Lane – the home of the mighty Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Watching my hero Jimmy Greaves every week was pure heaven, and I have been a Spurs supporter ever since,

Returning to Folkestone I played for several teams in the Ashford and Folkestone District Leagues but stopped playing in 1981 with 3 children now taking priority!

I retired from work in 2012, and moved to Canterbury two years later to help our daughter and our growing number of grandchildren!

I came across the Canterbury Walking Football website in 2016 and I couldn’t believe there was a way I could start playing the beautiful game again!

Therefore, after 35 years of not playing, I turned up to play walking football for the first time and absolutely loved it. More importantly, I met a fantastic group of people who have since become firm friends for life. The Club made me feel so welcome and the wide age range and mixed abilities make it so much fun to play.

Having had a heart attack and cardiac stent surgery in 2011, I was looking for a way to keep healthy and Walking Football proved to be the perfect solution helping my fitness grow week by week.

There is much talk and awareness about men’s mental health problems nowadays. Walking Football has undoubtably helped improve my mental health. Meeting a group of likeminded players every week and getting together socially is fantastic! My mental health deteriorated significantly during the Covid pandemic lockdown periods. Thankfully we eventually got together to start training again, and my mental health improved dramatically.

I could never have imagined that, at the age of 75, I would receive a Kent FA Cup Runners Up medal in 2021, and the look on my grandkids faces when I showed it to them was unforgettable!

So, thank you all my friends at Canterbury Mariners Walking Football Club for playing such an important role in my life, health and mental wellbeing.

Bob Temple

Age 90

Why am I still playing football at 90?  For the money of course!  (I wish!)  A potted history of my footballing career may answer this question.

As a youngster in London during the war years, 1939-1945, I played any sport I could, but this was mainly football, with the ball being filled with straw or rags, as there were no inner bladders to be had!  When the war ended, my father returned to civvy life and used to take me to see Fulham or Chelsea at home.  We lived in Fulham and, at 11-years-old, I played for the local pub team!  I even made the local paper on one occasion – ‘Temple scored with a hard shot!’

At the same age, I worked at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground selling programmes before the game and ice creams at half time.  This included giving a programme to Fulham Director and comedian. Tommy Trinder when he took his seat.  (He was always with a ‘showgirl’!)

During my time at college from 1948 to 1951, I captained the football team and was also useful at hockey, athletics, rugby, bike trials and swimming.

In 1952, I had a trial with Bristol Rovers and signed for them.  I might have improved with more coaching but, shortly afterwards, Her Majesty The Queen decided that I should go to war in Korea!  I quickly learned to duck my head from bullets and shells, as well as scoring a few headers when we played football.  

I well remember playing a friendly against the Turkish Army team when, with some of them having seen me play before, two players came over to me right from the start and shadowed me for the whole game.  Their tackles were far from friendly!

In 1956, during a ‘holiday’ from the Army, I trained with Fulham, and Bedford Jezzard, the manager, offered me Metropolitan League football with the reserve team if I signed on.  I declined.

During my military career, I played and coached in many countries including Libya, Germany, Yemen, Egypt where we played against the national team, Korea and, of course, the UK.

As we know, players don’t always agree with referees’ decisions, so I became one of them!  I officiated in a Cup Final in Tripoli, but I still preferred playing.

Fitness has always been important to me, and I have only had one period off, in 1988, when I had a right knee replacement.

Whilst living in Rochester, I played walking football there so, when I moved to Canterbury finding a team playing close to home was an obvious way to continue playing ‘the beautiful game’.  My colleagues at Canterbury Mariners are a great set of players and need a ‘clown’ so I will carry on for a few more years yet!

Canterbury Mariners Walking Football Club is sponsored by