A DENTON man is taking on the best on the football field – at the age of 83.
Bernard Roddy admits he caught the walking football bug after spotting it on the television and thinking, ‘I can do that.’
Now he is the oldest member of the Tameside Striders, who play at King Street in the town.
And he cannot get enough of the camaraderie the games produce among a group of people he did not know until he started almost two years ago.
“I saw it on television and thought, ‘I wonder if I can do that?’,” said Mr Roddy, who lives in Thornley Park.
“Eventually, my wife decided she would find out where it was being played and I was given a really friendly welcome.”
Every Tuesday, Mr Roddy – a former soldier who served in Egypt and went on to become a teacher in Moss Side, Manchester – takes part in the friendly matches.
But crossing over into one of the Striders’ league teams does not appeal – he is not that competitive.
“I like being competitive but being in a league can stir up the wrong feelings in people,” he added.
“I’d rather just play football. I don’t like to get too involved.
“The philosophy at the club is very much, ‘We like to win but it’s not a case of winning at all costs.’
“Now I have another group of friends and I’ve always loved football. I enjoy being with such friendly people.”
Mr Roddy’s previous football experience stretched to playing for school and for Manchester Old Xaverians after attending Xaverian College.
As a midfielder, he loved getting stuck in but now on Tuesdays, he is a striker and recently found that comes with its own pitfalls.
“It was just last week actually,” he said.
“I was waiting for a perfect pass and I’d quietly thought about putting the ball in the corner.
“It came to me and my shot was terrible! It went straight into the goalkeeper’s hands and even though everyone said, ‘Good shot, Bernard,’ in my opinion, it was poor.”
While Mr Roddy wows everyone, the Striders have been having differing fortunes.
In The Fair Play League at Curzon Ashton, both Denton teams took up the two bottom spots. Fortunately there is nowhere to be relegated to!
But their 73-year-old goalkeeper, David Partington, did well enough to make North West England trials at Wigan.
An Over-70s squad has only recently been introduced and his performances, featuring some stunning displays in internal games over the last couple of years, have not gone unnoticed.
To top it off, Mr Partington is also a fine outfield player.
Tameside Striders have been busy equipping players with rain jackets following a four-figure grant from Manchester Guardian Society Charitable Trust.
They added a few hundred pounds from their own funds to buy in more than 50 initialled and printed jackets.
Readers may see players out and about in these smart jackets with ‘Denton Walking Football’ emblazoned across their backs.
And the hunt is on for new players, particularly for their Thursday group, with women aged 35 plus and men who are over 65.
Tameside Striders Over-65s and Over-70s continue to compete at the Greater Manchester Walking Football League at Heywood Sports Village.
The 65s are finding goals hard to come by and currently sit second bottom in a league of five but the 70s remain undefeated after 12 matches.
Striders are currently top of a seven team league at this senior level and if they can all stay fit and maintain their form they could be on target for the title.