Trefor Philips, aged 67, is just one of new breed of latter-life sportsmen who have taken up walking football as a way of keeping fit and making friends.
Each week, he joins a team of like-minded men, aged from 50 to 83, to train with City in the Community coaches at the iconic Etihad Campus. Between them, the average combined age of a team can reach an impressive 700-plus years.
Their version of the beautiful game is slower and more sedate – following usual football rules – apart from running is not allowed and the ball must no go over head height.
Trevor, who had a new hip 16 years ago, and then a knee replacement in 2012, says he has not looked back since walking back on to the pitch after a gap of some 40 years.
“The whole experience has been magic,” he says. “I’m so much fitter now and I’m able to do things that I couldn’t even do twenty years ago. My overall health and flexibility have improved so much that if I go out walking with my wife she is always telling me to slow down.”
Each week the coaches take the team through warm-ups and exercises matched to their ability before they start a game, where speed-walking is allowed, but any running is strictly vetoed.
“It’s actually really hard when you start because all your natural instincts are to run for the ball,” says Trevor. “But, you have to resist it and really concentrate on footwork, control and anticipating where the ball is going to go so that you are in the right place.”
“Some of the lads have lost their wives and they are the ones who could have found it difficult to make friends again. But, we have a really solid friendship between us and lots of banter– and even if one of us is injured we still turn up to matches to support each other.
“That confidence rubs off on you in other areas of life too. I think to myself, that anything is possible, especially when I walk through the Etihad and really feel like I’m part of the City team. In general I feel brighter and more alert and I don’t feel like I get ill as often or need to go to my doctor as much.
“This is why I’m happy to be an ambassador for Manchester City Council and the three Manchester Clinical Commissioning Groups – as an example of the type of proactive approach to staying fit and healthy and joining in with events in your own community.”
“If I could style myself on any City player it would be David Silva – he’s poetry in motion,” he says.
“The closest I’ve got to fame is through my granddaughter – she’s always telling her friends at school that ‘Grandad plays for Manchester City’.”
City legend Mike Summerbee, a big fan of City in the Community's walking football initiative said: "Walking Football is a great way for people like me to get some regular, informal exercise as well as looking after their general health and wellbeing.
"It's great to see City in the Community providing opportunities like this for local people. When Peter Barnes and I took part in a session last year, the atmosphere was brilliant and really welcoming - it didn't even feel like exercise."
It's a view shared by Councillor Paul Andrews, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, who added: "Manchester is well-known for its vibrant community spirit - the more we make the most of this potential, the more we can act to do as much as possible to stop people becoming ill or isolated in the first place."
City in the Community’s Walking Football sessions take place twice every week at the Manchester tennis and football centre on the Etihad campus.
Tuesday: 12:00 – 13:0
Friday: 11:00 – 12:00
No booking required, just bring your trainers and turn up. There’s a nice brew waiting for you after the session, too!