Jimmy’s back to kicking a football again!

Jimmy Armfield-back in action at the launch of Blackpool's first Walking Football session at Blackpool Sports Centre.

Jimmy Armfield-back in action at the launch of Blackpool's first Walking Football session at Blackpool Sports Centre.

You know how it is when you get to a certain age...

Walking up a slope gets a bit tougher. You make involuntary noises getting out of a chair. You even start watching Bargain Hunt and quite enjoy it.

But wait – it doesn’t have to be like that.

Getting on a bit shouldn’t mean a halt to everything you used to do, at least not according to those behind a new and novel idea – walking football.

It kicked off, excuse the pun, at Blackpool Sports Centre this week with none other than former England skipper Jimmy Armfield taking part.

“I only came to watch but once I was here I couldn’t resist joining in,” said 78-year-old Armfield. Once a footballer always a footballer.

The premise is simple – a football match with no running allowed. It has been launched by Age UK, Blackpool Council and the Older Men’s Network, is open to anyone over the age of 50, and if it’s a success, as hoped, will be rolled out at other sports centres across Blackpool.

The first session ended with 12 very sweaty but very happy gentleman hailing the idea a success.

Bill Cannon, 77, of School Road, said: “I loved it. I last played football 60 years ago for the local scouts. How do I rate my performance today? As it was then – atrocious.”

Billy Singleton, 68, a well known figure from local football, still involved at AFC Blackpool, said: “I saw it advertised in The Gazette and thought ‘why not?’ The only problem is my game was based on speed and now I have to walk. But it was nice to meet a good group of guys and I will come again.”

The idea is as much about getting older men out of the house as it is playing football.

As Roger Jones, manager of the National Older Men’s Network, put it: “What else would men of this age be doing other than sitting at home watching TV? Within four or five weeks they’ll be going for a pint together and that to me means the world.”

Terri Sawkill, Chief Officer at Age UK Blackpool, agreed. She said: “The biggest reason older men don’t engage in physical activity is a lack of confidence. This is about getting them out and meeting others in the same boat.”

Laura Ivinson, leisure manager at the sports centre, added: “The health improvements are huge and hopefully with more funding we can get it to our centres at Moor Park and Palatine.”

Sessions are £3 each and open to anyone aged 50-plus, all standards welcome.

Call (01253) 622812 for more details.

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