Richards writes


30May

The tail ender, the trailer AFTER the main feature has left your screen but the bit where the Editor of the site has his chance to jot down a few personal thoughts and express his onions.


 Building this website has been both  a pleasure and a privilege. Of course it is homespun and you won't here any claims of grandeur coming from these pages.  In these extraordinary times a small group of walking footballers and their deprivations are relatively insignificant so if this site in some small way can engage, and interest you until we get going again and it can enter a full swing cycle of match reports, photographs then so much the better.  I don't feel 'insignificant' and I'm sure you don't either.  Let's come out of this on the other side re-energised and ready to roll, in  a reasonably straight  line...unlike those onions.


OPINION PIECE

SWEEPER / KEEPER  why do I like it ?

Well for a start there is no implicit meaning in the name of the game that suggests people walk, or at least try to walk. Many games of 'walking football' at our sessions and even more so  beyond remind me of a tale I learned in childhood 'The Emperor's New Clothes'.  The grand egocentric  Imperial ruler convinced by his cunning minions that they have found him a magnificent new suit of clothes to wear.  "Only the chosen few can see the suit" they tell him.  So full of his delusion of divinity he falls for it and  goes about parading his body and his garb , only for those watching to realise he's been 'hoodwinked'. 

He's actually stark naked !

I'm not suggesting such gullibility exists in the wider walking football community but...

...I think some venues , teams  and tournaments in our game similarly try to fool themselves that they are playing a 'walking' game. The Referee's have an exceedingly difficult job to do in these circumstances. Spoil 'the fun' or enforce the rules. Most go for compromise.   They may well be overseeing a game of  playing 'Slow non-contact Football' and well done for that. Sadly the game was named quite wrongly from the outset,  and now labours under its name.  The target of derision from those casual observers on the sidelines or the holier than thou who are  in denial themselves.

Of course a very small number of  teams do play  a completely pedestrian game.  Few and far between though,  and frankly the games can be as dull as ditch water. 

Sweeper/Keeper is a slow paced precision game of three touch based on the premise of movement and passing with  a view to opening up a clear channel or pathway to goal.  A very small goal at that.  Just five foot by three foot.  Unmanned with no risk of injury to goalkeepers. 

Fast movement is penalised so it pays not to run. 

It is a very inclusive game that suits mixed ability play as well as it would skilled proficient footballers. It's also good to watch and can be easy on the eye.

To all intents and purposes the ball usually  has to be slotted home.  You might get lucky with  a power drive but the more likely outcome is the ball will sail high or wide. Those with good direction will prosper of course.

The best exponents of the 'finish' are good passers of the ball. With an eye for an opening who play with their heads up. Who can move the opposing S/k around the perimeter of his 'D' to fashion  a finishing opportunity and benefit from the vision of team mates.  The game encourages vision and movement. At the very least it's a brilliant training exercise.

The Sweeper/Keeper position  itself  is becoming an art form.  Lateral mobility around the edge of one's 'D' is the key.  We have several very good exponents of this craft.  It requires some courage as the body will block many attempts on goal.  Either by your legs, torso or an outstretched foot.  Frustrating attackers is his core job. Because the ball is not usually struck with great venom the consequences are relatively minor.

The excellent rule of playing the ball into the 'D' when under pressure and following it in to relieve that pressure is a boon. 

Penalty kicks (three teams runs, heavy fouls (very rare) and encroachment for advantage) are not blighted by the one step rule which seems to escape so many walking footballers.  Simply walk up to the ball and try to fit it into a space fourteen metres away.  A space  which appears  ample.  But we've all seen them missed. Often.  It's a challenge and no mistake, especially on a breezy or wind day.

From open play and when they see a chance some players still insist on an occasional blast goalward to try to breach defences.  These are paying off less and less, and I've seen the practice diminish of late. 

Four sided s/k on  a regular sized pitch is a very demanding game.  The optimum number at Denton is five-a-side playing west/east or east/west on the adjacent pitches. Six v. Six or larger numbers are possible especially if one can enlarge the pitch.  We have seen some 'goalfests' but also very tight matches and just last week a 7 v. 7 produced a one-nil 'thriller' (yes, really).

Conventional walking football is a good game which also benefits from the three touch format inherent within our Sweeper/Keeper  but for me over the last couple of years it's become too focussed on power too often with the default move  a  bullet shot trying to beat a goalkeeper with sheer force.  Shooting ability means the ball often goes high or wide.  When a power shot is on target then the goalkeeper - maybe in his seventies - is expected to throw himself about in an effort to save it,  or possibly even get out of the way ! 

The technical passing game which is Sweeper/keeper  is what appeals to me more and of course at seventy years of age, and hampered by hip replacements most of the youthful  power has drained away from my legs and the shot, unless a ball is rolling towards me and I can catch it just right is really a thing of my past. I know plenty of others who feel the same way. I also know many will disagree but we are a broad church and there's room for alternatives.

The new 69+ 'Summer Session' at Ewen Fields will follow the ways of the 'Tiger Feet'  Festival and focus on S/K games.   ContrarilyiIt is hoped that every Tuesday and Thursday King Street will see both forms of the game played in  a bid to satisfy everyone. If numbers allow then two games of conventional WF may well  be the way to go during 'Unders' hour on Tuesday's. 

I will be promoting the S/K  form of the game more as time goes by and i know most of our committee are behind this form of the game as a credible,  and enjoyable alternative.

Conventional Walking Football is just one way we old boys can engage with  a football.  'Sweeper/Keeper' as Colin Fielding so succinctly christened the game, is another. 

Just my opinion of course which is what this page reflects on an occasional basis.



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I've decided to take my leave of the national Facebook Forum for 'Walking Football' after being a frequent contributor for a couple of years now.  There's just too much navel gazing going on.  Constant regurgitation of the same old arguments, the same opinions.  Although I'm happy I've been consistent I expect some are equally fed up hearing my views oft' expressed too.  It does not help when people who have been removed/ejected for causing bother  crawl back in under the radar with a pseudonym to start stirring the pot once again.

Whilst it was fun while it lasted - I'd like to thank Jon Harper for his admin role which saw the group grow steadily - enough is enough.  To much amused contributor 'AA' - always laughs at my posts - who never got over the fact that I turned down his 'award' last year. Thanks but no thanks. 

I'm keeping my personal Facebook account which I've used a kind of diary since 2007, and I'll stay in the Denton Walking Football group. I can also be found on   'Walking Football Untied' now and again ~  check the spelling. Walking Football Untied as in unfastened, unattached and unhitched but hopefully not unhinged !

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Alan spoke to Radio Manchester's Mike Sweeney in February 2021 and you can eavesdrop here


Wallet & Grimace: The Wrong Trousers.... 

...my walking football journey...



February 1st.

A new month of a newish year. It's cold outside but the sun is shining.  The kind of day I'd relish  a game of walking football followed by maybe filming another one and a morning well spent. 

My own thoughts on resumption extend so far as the clocks going forward.  If we are not back playing again by then a quarter of another year will have passed.  Of course we all have more important things to worry about in the light of over 100,000.  I've been busy drawing up  a Group Constitution and conferring with our Committee. Thanks to Garry Pearce for his assistance in this matter.



October 21st. 2020

Time the Overs got a rise !

The committee recently discussed the age segregation at Denton. It's three years since we introduced the 'Unders and Overs' hours - in fact we've since increased the time on the pitch slightly and now have 150 minutes to play with.

Back then the watershed figure was 65 years of age and above would play at  the earlier time, although there have always been one or two individuals who for whatever reason wish to play their walking football  with others who are younger.

Two years ago we raised the 'Overs' age to 67, and there it has stayed since. You cannot freeze such a process for long before you lose sight of what you're trying to do. We all agreed as a committee. 

'Doing time'

From January 2021 the threshold for 'Overs' will rise to 68 years of age.   Personally, if we are all still around, in 2023 I'd like to see a distinct Over 70's section introduced at that stage.  Of course this will leave something of a void beneath. Over 50 players would then be on the pitch with some men almost two decades older than themselves..

It's interesting that as well get older (if we're lucky in these extra perilous times) the average age of the group is rising steadily. We now have many players over the age of seventy. Because we play in the mornings we have very few still of normal working age. 

I was talking to Garry Pearce recently who gets about the area  in his role as a Referee and he was speaking about multi-age groups who regularly play fifty year olds on the same pitch as over seventies.  He remarked on the speed of thought and speed of feet which becomes markedly different  as age differences widen.  Garry's insight was of course valuable but  this is a matter of common sense really, I suppose no matter what the older end may think of their own prowess and ability to compete with younger men it's fairly obvious that the playing field is less than even. There are obviously a few exceptions to this.  You can get  a fifty five year old who is cumbersome and slow and a nimble seventy five year old who is spritely and nimble.  The exceptions serve to prove the rule as they stand out from the rest of their contemporaries.

We have been discussing ways of coping with this as time marches on at Denton and the issue will continue to occupy our thoughts in the coming weeks. 


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September 20th. 2020  postcard from North Wales....


Weather great, no rain for ten days or more SEE EWE SOON !  

September 2020 - THIRTEEN THINGS....

Thirteen  things I have learned in four and a half years of 'walking' football.


#1. The game was named wrongly  from the outset. In essence  it's a slow non-contact game where people move much more slowly than in regular association football.  When they pick up speed they should be penalised. Sometimes they are, but when they constantly get away with it this undermines the game and can make a mockery of it.  Referees need to make unpopular decisions. That said, eliminating deliberate contact is more important than eliminating running.

#2. Outdoors with touchlines is best. Cages are worst. Indoors is VERY noisy !

#3. Size 4 balls are better than size 5

#4. It's an inclusive game, or should be for its maximum benefit to all involved. Three touch is best for this aspect of the game.

#5. Leagues and tournaments have an edge to the atmosphere. Some times it can be good, other times less so. Competitive walking football faces challenges.

#6. I'm too old to take performances seriously - team or my own -  and realised this after twelve months or so.  Results matter, but they aren't important.  Don't lose sleep over losing. If you miss an open goal shrug your shoulders and get on with it.  Enjoyment and exercise if far more important than winning games.  I miss playing so much.

#7. Organise well. Most people appreciate it. Some will even say so, and thank you for it, which helps make the effort worthwhile.

#8. What's more important?  Everyone 'walking' or everyone getting their kicks in  a reconnection with a form of football in a fairly risk free welcoming environment, even if they do sometimes stretch the speed at which they are moving. They should be penalised.  That's what adequate Referee's are there to judge. Adequacy is all we can expect from Referees, especially volunteers.   Those who criticise should try doing it themselves. It's not easy. Good Referee's are not in abundance.

#9. Playing in goal is an unduly risky business. 

#10. Other variants of the conventional game can be better, more inclusive with less reliance on power - which most of us do not have any more. Precision is best and is much more interesting to watch. 

#11. Three team runs  (or four or five) a penalty is a good idea. 

#12. Give credit to others for good ideas, but that last one was one o'mine.

#13. After playing I learned  to always thank the Referee in appreciation. He has done his best.




I was asked very recently why I'd walked away from the Fair Play League at Curzon Ashton F.C.  

It's a fair question that requires a detailed answer because there are several reasons.

If you're interested read on:

When I had the idea of the 'Fair Play League' it was my intention to ratchet down the tension which I'd seen manifest on the pitch in some competition games I'd seen. I think that worked for the most part.

I wanted our core of proficient players who were competitive at heart  to have a once monthly  alternative to the twice, or thrice weekly internal recreational sessions. These numbered about thirty men  in total and in the first season we drew the teams out of a hat to allocate squads to teams.  So very much a  mixed ability approach.  We repeated this in the second season but the number of teams came down from four, to three, as a small number of  players found the competitiveness of the league 'too much'.  As the second season progressed a few players became unavailable through no fault of their own.  The onus to try to find replacements, probably understandably  fell upon me.  Something of a headache at times, as league days approached. 

The work load  for me was significant - remember I was already  busy with walking football at two venues and editing  three websites for quite a few hours per week. 

League days began early too.  I was usually  there for 8-45am.  at the latest to set up the pitches. Several sets of goal posts were all over the place. Pitches need to be marked.  I was grateful for the  help I had doing this from  some  of our players  and Mark Bradshaw himself of course, but it was time consuming and quite laborious.  Easier in the first season,  because Mark usually had a couple of energetic young trainees to help.

I also set up the league to play in it myself. Unfortunately opportunities have been rare due to some deterioration of my hip replacements and  I  didn't play any games at all last season. This lack of game time for me personally has influenced my decision.  Even on days when I could have played there was just too much other 'stuff' to be dealing with.

The first season involved a close finish  and led to an exciting climax. Bolton Arena emerged victorious with virtually the last kick of the last game !  

I think almost everyone judged the format a success. With only one red card (unforgivable really in walking football, AND in  a FAIR PLAY league) plus just a couple of  blue cards in eighty four, twenty minute games . 

The FPL points system although ground breaking and very novel,  could be a template for future competitions of this nature.

There is no patent on it.  I'd be delighted to see it adopted elsewhere.

I agreed to run the league for a second season after assurances  that there'd be lots of help from students of the University  now based at Tameside Stadium - who "would be happy to take on much of the administration  and media coverage"  , including filming as part of their syllabus. "they need to be shown to run something in  a sporting context"

Unfortunately  no help  whatsoever was forthcoming.

Over the course of the second season the Bolton Arena  team were head and shoulders above any other and it was evident from an early stage that they would collect the title once again. To their great credit, they played some excellent walking football and were amassing 'Fair Play Points from  a variety of Referee's as they went.  Leading the table with both point tallies when the lockdown interrupted  matters. 

In all honesty for a  third season we could not have admitted a team so clearly  much better than most of the others in the seven team league.  At the very least we would have asked the two Bolton teams (Arena & Stateside)  to divide  their squads up in an effort to engineer a more level playing field.  Some will disagree, but then  some will see little sense at all in a 'fair play' format.

My own view - a view shared by some within the game is that 'competitive walking football' does not really work.  That's why the F.P.L. was set up  as a kind of half-way house,  meant for the semi-competitive player.  In that respect, after a promising start,   it  ultimately failed. 

Although not my intention at the outset,  I  Refereed several games in the 2019/20 season and was disappointed in the attitude of some players.  Players from most teams, even players who I mix with week in week out at recreational sessions can take on a much keener edge when playing competitively.  A lot of the fun goes out of the game and some players become desperate to win. 


Regarding Referee's it was much harder to get a settled crew due to illness and work commitments and on two or three  occasions I was waiting until the eleventh hour to know if we'd have enough of them on site.  A further headache. Luckily we always managed and provided  enough  Referees, and Assistants in the second season - also ground breaking.


A Referee in  a 'fair play' league does not ,  should not expect abuse.  I didn't get much but I got enough to make we wonder what was going wrong.  

People whose judgement I trust were telling me the 'Fair Play' format was failing and even these games were becoming far too competitive in their nature.  Maybe I expect others to share my more relaxed  mindset towards results and this was unrealistic.  My motto in this game has always been  "Results matter, but they are not important" 

Across the three pitches there was running going on almost everywhere.  The matter of contact was largely contained  but the pace of play was often ridiculously fast,  despite attempts by Referee's to contain it, you really need the players to have their minds focussed on walking.

I know, that when I play I myself I too can be  guilty of pushing the pace too far. Almost everyone does it.  It's even more  natural in  a competitive environment.  I'm not penalised too often personally,  but it does happen. 

This is where the entire game falls down. There is practically NO walking football played competitively in this country. It was named wrongly from the outset and should have been called 'Slow Non-Contact Football' .    The game we call 'walking football' is not football at all but a derivative aimed at providing older men (primarily) with the chance to re-engage with a ball , get some exercise in the process and enjoy a wider circle of friends and acquaintances. 

For the time being I am concentrating on getting Denton Walking  Football Group  up and running again for the Striders of Tameside.  My role as co-ordinator at Curzon Ashton is at an end, as unfortunately is Mark's term as first team manager there.  He may now be able to focus more time our game and I hear  the sessions will get going again soon. 

I explained to Mark mid-pandemic (it's not nearly over) my feelings about ending the F.P.L. in the circumstances  and he agreed.  Whether anything similar will start up there again sometime in the future I don't know but it  won't be my hands on the organising tiller.   Once those games were finished I'd often be here on the lap top several hours afterwards, configuring results &  tables for the website, editing game video and photographs.  For a time it was fun, but towards the end, if I'm honest it had become a chore,  given that I hadn't even kicked a ball.

I'm still fully engaged within walking football planning our return next month along with our D.W.F.G. committee.  But the apparent  intensity of competitive games means I can offer no commitment in that direction on  a regular, consistent basis. 

I'm quite proud of the way the F.P.L. went though as it was enjoyed by very many , and not quite as keenly contested as some alternatives.  It's a shame we could not finish the second season,  as that would have been a better conclusion for me, and everyone else involved.

Instead we were engulfed as a society with a disease that primarily kills old men.  Life changed for all of us  and the economic shock has not yet been truly felt.  It's coming.

Walking football must restart carefully ,  and  locally to begin with .  The situation is still potentially devastating for men of our vintage who contract Coronavirus.

If and when the pandemic is behind us and is  a bad memory of the fairly recent past, I may well suggest that I organise friendly games and festivals involving teams of similar mindset to ours.  

We will get going in the conventional game once again and it will be good to play against invited teams occasionally both home and away. 

Any league I'd get involved with  in future would be with an adapted version of the Dutch game.  We call it sweeper/keeper.  No goalkeepers, and small goals.  It's great fun , more technical, replaces  the 'power' with precision.   Zero risk of Goalkeeping injuries of which there have been several lately.  An unlikely prospect  in league form perhaps, maybe better for 'festivals'  but never say never.  We've broken the traditional mould once,  we may do so again. 

Thanks to all who helped along the way of the F.P.L.  Our Referees,  and assistants plus of course those friends who turned up early  to help set things up - you know who you are. 

And thanks also  to Mark Bradshaw and Curzon Ashton F.C. 

A long story...thanks for sticking with it.

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ARE  INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL MATCHES &  TOURNAMENTS MERE VANITY PROJECTS ?

I don't think I'm  churlish by nature but the obsessional approach by   some towards international walking football could test the resilience of a saint, and I'm not saintly by nature either.

When established sports venture into the international arena  it is usually after a long trodden path of domestic endeavour when athletes , sportsmen and women have impressed enough people in  a position of trusted authority to select those who will best represent their country in the chosen arena. The very highest acclamation talent and of potential winners in their field.  That's sport.  To me walking football has always been  a game. However, that's merely my opinion as is the rest of this piece. Some may say that's mere semantics.  I wouldn't argue, but to me sport requires more commitment than going down to the 3g. a couple of times a week and kicking a ball about with pals, no matter how enjoyable that is.


That said, it would indeed be a special occasion if truly the most talented and skilled walking footballers from each country could play each other perhaps crossing only one border to do so (at the moment) and such  a feast of recreational fun with  a competitive edge would no doubt be filmed and shared with the rest of us lesser skilled mortals.  Firmly Refereed it may even reflect the very best of a 'walking' ethos.  Although it's unlikely that's what the players will have been used to as they established their international credentials. Our game is challenged from the outset by its very name 'walking football'. But that's a different can of worms.

 A few  'international game' tickets may even be sold for Wives, Sons and Daughters, friends  etc.(rarely parents) and make it a proper day out for the whole family.  But  WHY the emphasis on national teams?  If we cast our minds back to normal times,  a willingness  to attend distant 'trials' at ones own expense was not always an option for many people,  and to fuel a sometimes misguided idea that "I'm going to play for ENGLAND" (other nations available) which may be a romantic notion in the heads of some people is questionable.

When trialists have to stump up towards the cost of the trial pitch then something is not quite right.

Evoking memories of 1966 and all that, pulling on the 'national jersey' when there may be a half a dozen players more worthy of it devalues the achievement, if not the aim. 

Is there money to be made?   Personally  I doubt such an enterprise would generate income but what would happen to any cash generated once costs are borne?  Would  this be  re-invested for nurturing of the grassroots game or used to further fund yet more international adventure?  

When structures and organisations are 'mature' enough, and well funded enough to boast a network on the ground which can  scour the country looking for 'talent' and thus select a squad of truly outstanding candidates,   fully funded perhaps with a generous sponsor then the time will be right for a truly international match, even  a tournament. 

At the moment in my view such moves are mere vanity projects. I suggest such 'maturity' is a long way down the road, and some people need to 'grow up ' in other ways in the meantime too.  Learning to tolerate one another along the way,  even working together, one day.

A 'home international championship' ?  perhaps if only the various associations were on cordial terms. They are not.  The Football Association, particularly in England  shows  no inclination to develop international walking football and I can see the logic  in their thinking.  They see the game as largely recreational with enormous health benefits, physical and mental  for those taking part.


Meanwhile the competing organisations , the W.F.A. the  F.I.W.F.A  and the F.A. supporting I.W.F.F. seem hell bent on promoting the international aspect of walking football but they do not appear to enjoy a harmonious relationship. 

Perhaps I'm wrong and there is money to be made after all,  but I doubt it. Especially in this post pandemic world.  Is there some unrevealed sponsor waiting in the wings to fund such a project?  To have their generosity applied in financing a serious  international quest would open the game  up to scrutiny like never before.  So far there is little evidence to suggest  the end product will stand up sufficiently to that scrutiny.  Walking Football has already been roundly mocked on national televised both by comedy writers and professional pundits from the regular game.  I'm not sure any potential sponsor would see much merit in that.

For me, international ambitions are a folly, while so much work needs to be done around the domestic game.  Vanity projects on which to project large egos.  The domestic game at recreational level  is nowhere near enough for them.  Given the circumstances we are all in it may well have to be.  For a considerable time at least . 

Every cloud - even the very darkest ones - have  a grey lining, if not a silver one.  When we emerge from this crisis the focus should be on re-establishing the grassroots of our game and nurturing the competitive spirit which exists in the form of league's and tournaments. For me, the prospect of truly meaningful international competition is a decade down the road. 

There are many different opinions within football and our derivative of it - this has just been one of them. Worth no more or no less than any other. 

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COULD A ONE METRE EXCLUSION ZONE UNDER RELAXED SOCIAL DISTANCING DELIVER A NON-CONTACT GAME?


With no sign of an end to our first wave of Covid-19 especially in this region and a couple of others we must all face the grim reality of a prolonged lockdown with social distancing becoming a way of life for the forseable future.
I have no crystal ball nor any way of knowing when circumstances will change but with mass gatherings in the name of 'black lives matter' attracting crowds who throng together, and tourists on beaches too when the sun shines ,plus a general relaxation in mindset which I am beginning to detect from some news reports I can't help thinking that the second wave might start to rise even before the first one has crashed ashore.

- - - -
We are still seeing three hundred plus deaths per day ! That's like a civil airliner, and a big one at that falling out of the skies with metronomic regularity. Of course most of the lives lost are towards the end of their natural span anyway, and lets face it in the scheme of things for some perhaps we don't count for much. But, dare I suggest "longer lives matter" ? Black, White, Brown you name it.




The best we can hope for at any gathering in the more medium term is a return to some group training and ball engagement subject to two metres distancing. Of course we await Governmental guidance and F.A. input will be key to Denton Youth opening their doors to us once again. If someone only wants to play conventional walking football like we used to, then they are in for a substantial wait, unfortunately that's my honest opinion, and quite probably if you're reading this, it might be yours too. 


I think most of us would agree that a 2 metre distance renders anything like a conventional game impossible BUT if  it's seen fit and appropriate to bring this down to a just one metre separation then I can foresee a chance for something like walking football. For me this would probably involve a three or even two touch game - suggested by a committee colleague - a bit like sweeper/keeper where tackling and challenging for the ball seemed to be at a lower level anyway before we packed in for lockdown. We could use the larger goals with 'keepers but the restraint needed to stand off from an attacker closing in on goal to shoot would be too much for some players. Rules would have to be strictly enforced. Perhaps, even masks might be required if the 'R' rate dictates. Any stubbornness in a reduction of disease will render these ideas pointless but I'm walking on hope at the moment, that is all. 


Any player encroaching a one metre exclusion zone would have  to be sternly warned and any repeat offence resultant in a red card. I'm obviously just talking about our own sessions here. What others do is completely up to them to devise and decide.


Some players would find it very difficult to adapt to the kind of game I am suggesting here.
However, given a one metre relaxation I think we could for the first time enjoy a truly non-contact game. With a maximum of five or six aside there is plenty of space to exploit. To get about the pitch in your own 'zone' looking for the pass that could come your way. 


With no blockin and , no challenging involved, just standing off and depend upon misplaced passes, interceptions and balls going out of play in order to regain possession. In our sweeper/keeper format it's all about opening up a pathway to goal with slick passing and movement so finding space could become easier. For this to work opponents MUST respect your space. It's going to be worth a try at any rate. I think with a selected group of players we could achieve a satisfying 'walk out' with at least an element of competitiveness , without being gung-ho daft about it. Patience will be required of course, in addition to restraint.
Something akin to this may well be all we have to look forward to this year in terms of our walking football. So let's all give it some thought. Let's all approach resumption with an open mind and a spirit of goodwill to get things going in the right direction once more.



As David Partington recently told me in a live video conference yesterday players need to realise they are "not coming along to win" . This will be the key. If we can attune our minds to that thought then we may have a chance of salvaging something worthwhile from what's already a bloody mess.
When we get some guidelines that might allow such a trial to begin from Government and the Football Association, and Denton Youth re-open their gates then we can proceed.
With caution.





As Secretary / Co-treasurer of the group I sent a discussion document to our committee today (19/5/20) trying to think our way out of lockdown is important as a way out will come....

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE ? We need to start discussing where we are at as a committee in the way we approach  a possible resumption when the shackles come off for some of us, if not all of us.

 I'm seeing varied opinion across social media about a return to gatherings for playing or training.

 Those who think that because the Bundesliga is back that walking football should get  an IMMEDIATE green light. I'm not sure if these people compare apples to oranges on a regular basis. They seem foolish enough to do so.

 But I'm also picking up  a trend that a few people think the walking game has gone for good.

 WE need to establish  where we stand on this as a committee member and regular players of D.W.F.G. ? 

The advantage we have is our sessions are outdoors.  Also we know we can have a good time for an hours or so on the pitch without playing a conventional game. Training equipment and small goals give us more options than most. Even taking the dreaded  'social distancing' into account.

 In the early days of this pandemic I was fully supportive of the Government but as was bound to happen cracks have appeared in the way they are handling it.  I can no longer follow their instructions with blind obedience and will be thinking for myself and for the quality of life I enjoy going forward.  Obviously there are restrictions I am/we are bound to observe, others are blurred around the edges and require personal judgement.

 So, how do we judge when it is safe to re-engage with our group ?  Will we have a group left to re-engage with?  

It doesn't help that the country is now adopting four different fronts in relaxing rules. 

All these questions need discussion.  All of them require the re-opening by D.Y.F.C. to become relevant.  If you have any opinions  we need to hear them. I appreciate the subject of a return may not feature as high on your list of priorities as it might do on mine, or you may be much keener than I am to get back a.s.a.p. We all have a view. 

Each of our players will have their own view too.

My own  is that when groups of six or more are allowed to congregate outdoors AND when our venue is allowed to re-open then we should consider inviting people back to enjoy what we offer on  a rotational basis segregated by age.   This will require members to be contacted individually and canvassed on their attitude to such  a resumption as and when the light looms larger at the end of the tunnel.

I appreciate everyone's circumstances are different , some of us are more vulnerable than others. We may have to invest in an infra-red thermometer for contactless temperature checking.  For me this is a no brainer. We should get a good one - and everyone should agree to having their temperature taken as they attend - what do you think? It's a simple non intrusive procedure. 

We'll also need those reversible bibs I've mentioned, though how many we cannot be sure. 

We may  have 'lost' a small  number of players permanently , I think. But of course I hope not.   How do you feel about this and might you be one of them?  Difficult questions we need to start formulating answers to.  This situation cannot go on for too much longer.  There is a possibility we will be living with this virus for the rest of our lives. The question is what kind of a life will it be if that's the case. Will our enjoyable  twice weekly social interaction and exercise   be among the first victims of the 'new normal' ?


Feel free to email any response or start  a discussion in the forum - thanks for reading - Alan Those who stay engaged with the group via this site and the social media groups will get the first heads up of a resumption when it comes. When it's about to come.

(the committee responded positively and some said I'd summed up the situation very well. We are agreed smaller numbers are essential as a way out of lockdown.  We will NOT be amber gamblers but when we get signals that a green light might not be far away we will contact as many people as possible for a chat about returning to King Street when it opens and when older people get the go-ahead to gather once more.) 


_________________________________-

I wrote to all players for whom I have an email address on Saturday 9th. May...in the following terms:

'NUTS IN MAY' 

                                                                                Candice and Keith

Good afternoon all,
Nuts in May? well not quite , not quite yet. The current situation is testing all of us but becoming bonkers is not featuring in my agenda just now. What I do tend to think of at the time of year is the BBC Play for Today 'Nuts in May' about the rather eccentric and highly amusing couple Keith and Candice-Marie on their camping holiday around Dorset. Partly because it was funny but also as I used to spend a fair bit of time down there and still miss it, a bit.

 But I digress....


It's about five weeks since my last email went out and in the meantime I've spoken to many of you as have other members of our committee plus Garry Pearce.
There may be some slight relaxation of lockdown guidance announced tomorrow but social distancing - which at least allows a little leeway to alleviate loneliness - is likely to be with us for a long time yet.
Sue and I tend to shop individually with each of us going to the supermarket once a week. I'm getting three weeks to the gallon out of 'Bob' and when we finally leave our dog alone for the first time in ages he will find it such a shock he'll probably howl the house down.


All that said the nation is still suffering a high number of fatalities and this dangerous disease should not be underestimated.


I hope you all enjoyed the 75th. Anniversary of V.E. Day and have seen our little tribute film on tamestriders t.v. (youtube). Also the 'Where's me Shirt' video details of which are on the website. Speaking of that the old one is now expired and we have this brand new domain at www.tamesidestridersdenton.org


The website has about fifteen pages. The latest of which contains some of Trevor Brereton's often humorous match reports. The 'Playmates of the Month' page has also just been updated and there is a good video on the news page from a girl in Grimsby who reads an ode to her Dad and his passion for walking football.
The 'Whats App' group has proved very popular since 'lockdown' was introduced and we now hold three quizzes every week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4-00pm with a variety of 'comperes' covering many subjects. We have had fair spread of winners too, with nobody dominating proceedings. A smart phone and fast fingers are required.


It's likely that when we can get back to congregating in small groups we will have to stage socially distanced training sessions to begin with. Numbers will need to be controlled and it's likely we'll establish some form of rota system in the early days. Please watch for an announcement when you feel the mood music around relaxation is changing. To be honest , and I'm sure you'll agree this is not likely to be imminent. I myself put another year on the clock in a few days time and like so many of you I consider the current situation is robbing me of one of the joys of life, although in the scheme of things I continue to get off lightly given the circumstances so many find themselves in.


The good weather has been a welcome feature of the last few weeks. If you're lucky enough to have outside space I hope you've been enjoying it. The signs are a cooler spell is on the way very soon just as the delivered consignments of annuals for the garden are bedding in.
Please do ring any of us if you want to chat and don't be surprised if you get a call. If you are happy to share your number with the committee members just let me know and I'll pass it on. Gordon, Colin have both said they'd gladly get in touch and Garry Pearce also, as well as myself.


Some of you may know Mike Kieran and his Wife have been unwell with the virus but the last we heard from them was they are recovered. Mike has been answering many of the quiz questions over the telephone.
Stay well everyone.
Best wishes on behalf of the D.W.F.G. Committee
Alan Richards

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Not an awful lot to write about just now and the trend for lockdown self-video is contagious.  Here I employ the group's sprung  'rebounder' to try to improve my right foot - first touch , control and  short passing ...the aim to end up with two left feet.  I may have left this a bit late in life - wish my dad had schooled me with this objective in mind  when I was seven !


Weaker foot workout. Canine interference:


The ubiquitous 'keepy up' challenge...everyone's doin 'em. Not my strongest suit I'm afraid.  Shirt by Boavista, Porto.

Coming soon...Right foot on the rebound !



____________________________________________________________________________________________________

An interesting point of view was expressed on a national walking football Facebook 'Forum' today which provoked much thought, some of which had been lurking in my own mind for several days as we grapple with the peculiar and catastrophic consequences of the situation we are all now in.  Walking football is compromised as never before in its short history. In term of national importance, against a backdrop of thousands of deaths it's trivial but when it comes to personal importance it is up there in many of our thoughts as this 'lockdown' limits our lives. I have encountered Mr H on several occasions online. He enjoys his walking football , but is fairly intolerant of differing opinion if it doesn't suit his outlook on life.... 

Mr.H writes " 

"With the chances of there not being a vaccine for many months , are we to get used to the prospect of many months without our football , maybe never again?  The scientists are looking at multiple relaxations and further confinements to try and control the virus in our society, Are we at the point of continual restrictions on the most vulnerable which includes many of us in our community. We are in uncharted territory and just maybe we will not be allowed to continue with the way we knew in the past and I would like to know how our community feel about it . The football may well be the least of our worries looking to the future but it is a powerful indicator of what may lie ahead for the most vulnerable among us, myself included. Very sad times and how true the statement that nature does not need us but we need nature."


Mr. H ~ I'm not sure you can stomach the view of someone you allege to be a racist and a Brexiteer to boot but you ask an interesting question which has been perplexing me for some days now.
Initially 100% supportive of the Government's handling of this crisis I now suspect that we will be lied to and will never know the full death toll from this Chinese Virus. The situation in care homes is still semi-opaque if there is not a vale of semi-secrecy apparent about deaths, and the causes of deaths at home too, then the situation is far from transparent at the moment. Every Government lies to the people in good times and bad, and there is no alternative to this current administration which I would trust more, unless we entrusted the military to run the country, which I hope does not happen. Ever.


An 'acceptable' death toll will be the aim of the people who govern us. Where the NHS can cope on a week to week basis in caring for those worst hit and those close to death in hospitals. The prime concern of people like me is to avoid the disease altogether until a vaccine is available but if we are unfortunate enough, or careless enough to be infected we must hope that if  the virus in our bodies is speeding us towards an unappealing way of dying, that the Health Service will have the capacity to intervene to assist us resist its cruel destruction of our respiratory system.


The economy will come first in the end. I believe it has to. No Government will stand by and watch as irreperable damage is done over months of restrictions like we see enforced now.
Restrictions will probably be eased sector by sector , age group by age group as the brakes come off commerce and employment.

- - - - -
Regards football (I'm not particularly concerned about the regular game,  which is big enough and strong enough to sort itself out)  Played by younger people who are more resilient.  The professional games could be played behind closed doors for a while. I don't care if this season is truncated or completed, such considerations are trivial to me. But I am not a Liverpool supporter and the issue will most likely not be trivial to many of THEM. I think lesser prizes and relegations will have to be written off...probably.

Walking football is very different of course.  I believe the outlook for Over 65's , and especially Over 70's playing the game regularly together is under serious threat for the forseable future.   Certainly for the rest of the summer months and probably well into Autumn but that's just  a guess. .  To suggest 'maybe never again' is too bleak an outlook to contemplate.  However, I think the lockdown leash will be tight around the older end of society for a considerable time yet. We will learn to adapt, for the survival instinct is of course the strongest one we have.


However, younger walking footballers  will start to congregate and play together , perhaps as soon as the late summer. Some will stay away, deterred.  Others will have gotten out of the habit.  

We older ones will watch this happening and devise our own way back when we, and the health experts think it is safe so to do.  It would be perfectly possible to adapt a benign form of our game within a framework  of social distancing of two metres.  With limited touches and an emphasis on distribution of the ball, receiving the ball and dealing with the ball before moving it along. This may be all that's available to begin with for those in their eighth decade..  I'm already thinking about it,   as I'm 69 next month.

This will not suit the competitive mindset at all of course, that's a given. It is merely a way of getting some exercise back within  a group framework.  A very pale shadow of what we have been used to but an alternative which may be of some use. Some will scoff. Some will not have thought as deeply about is as you, nor me. But what we had is gone, for now. and will not be coming back in anytime quite soon.  Covid-19 is the very essence of the phrase 'GAMECHANGER'.  We will just have to wait, trust in medical science and hope this virus does not mutate in the meantime to throw up ever more challenges for those much wiser, who combat it on our behalf.


Younger 'older' people like those in their fifties and early to mid sixties will no doubt be tempted to take their chances as and when restrictions are lifted . Again, some will be deterred but many won't be , considering the risk worthwhile. Good luck to them is all can sincerely say.


The life enhancing nature of walking football will elude us for some time but it will come back for all age groups. Eventually. It's already helping people keep in touch and keep smiling in all manner of digital ways.
You suggest walking football may be the least of our worries. For me , it's a close fourth to me and my families health, my home, and my ability to travel and associate with aforementioned family and friends.


You concluded with a reference to nature.  In my layman's view the civilised world needs to back off from heavy reliance on antidiluvian cultures which exploit the animal kingdom for little good reason. Cruelty and barbarism towards wild creatures is at the root of this Chinese Virus. Globalism will be harnessed and curtailed as President Macron suggested just yesterday. Our developed economies which enjoy more civilised cultures will have to form our own supply chains to reduce reliance on a massive Global player like China, because they don't always play by the rules. 

We must produce more of our own. Of everything.


That said I'm not wholly convinced this virus is a natural consequence of a random but catastrophic  combination of dodgy DNA. But as I said earlier, I'm no expert, and I'm not sure you are either. 


     HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES WALKING FOOTBALL FOR OLDER PLAYERS WILL PREVAIL I AM CERTAIN OF THAT

we will wait if we can




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