DENTON’S walking footballers found themselves at the centre of drama as their Over-65s side stayed up in the most unbelievable circumstances.
Staring relegation to Greater Manchester Walking Football League, division two in the face, they came up against Bury Relics, who are champions.
But right in the nick of time, they scored a last minute penalty to retain their position in the top division.
However, as the philosophy of the Tameside Striders, the banner under which they play, states: “Results matter, but are not important in the scheme of things. Enjoyment is the aim of Tameside Striders.”
Members of the walking football group, which plays at Denton Youth FC’s King Street base, can now also look the part.
For the club, which is inclusive and encourages anybody to go have a go at the game regardless of natural ability, has recently been able to give every member a shirt in the groups colours of black and white stripes.
Buying in bulk saw them get a good price and as funds have steadily grown with expanding numbers they wanted to give players a sense of belonging.
Alan Richards, from the group, said: “It’s a good job we have a large variety of coloured bibs because if everyone turned up in the shirts on the same day then playing could become a bit confusing!
“We had a photoshoot at our final December session and it clearly demonstrated the wide ranging make up of our group, from 50 years of age up to 80 and beyond.
“There is no upper age limit to play at King Street. With up to five hours on the pitch per week now the Over 50s play on Tuesdays along with Over 67s, who each have separate hours.
“Thursday sees men over 65 and women aged 35 plus take to the pitch.”
A new year also sees the beginning of a new session at Denton, with a beginners’ group being launched after a funding boost from Ambition for Ageing.
Alan added: “This will also cater for those who have tried the game and for one reason and another stopped playing. Everyone develops at different speeds even in a walking game.
“We now have equipment to help players get the feel of the ball, see how a ball reacts and take time under no pressure, to adjust to this kind of game.
“We’ll do this from 11.30am on Thursdays the cost will be just £1.
“Early signs are we’ll have some women taking part and if they are new to football we can extend the age range catered for.
“All we ask is that new players fill in a routine health screening form. Minimal disclosure is required.”
The last Tuesday session of 2019 saw a record attendance and early this year, the group will continue its referee training programme.
Six more potential officials will be put through their paces in the classroom and on the pitch.
All of which contributes to a low risk environment where people can play a game that resembles regular football, without most of the competitive baggage that goes with the traditional game. All of the games we play are refereed.
Tameside Striders have a friendly game at Burnley towards the end of January and their Fair Play League also resumes at Curzon Ashton.
The group’s awards evening at Denton Golf Club on Thursday, December 12 went very well and was well attended.
Officials are planning a quiz night in the spring and may well return to the venue.
On the pitch they rented the indoor ‘Dome’ at Platt Lane, Manchester City’s former training ground, for three games which proved a popular move.