Name: Spencer Pratten
Location: Chelmsford, Essex
Walking Football Club Name: Chelmsford City
Favourite Position: Attacking midfield
Could you start by telling us a little about your background such as if you were you a sporty person when you were younger, and how long you had a break from playing sports before you got involved with Walking Football?
Football has always been my sport since the age of 5, and I’ve played non stop since.
That probably explains the wear and tear injuries !! I played semi-pro until 37, and after managing and coaching in non-league, moved to veterans over 40’s, over 50’s, and eventually moved to Walking Footbal when the 11 a side injuries began to pile up a little too much as I hit 60.
I still play the occasional 11 a side match for the Iron Maiden side, usually when they are touring around Europe, (Steve Harris can still play a bit), but try to take things a bit easier these days.
How long have you played Walking Football?
Why did you first get involved with Walking Football?
As I alluded to above, the 11 A Side game was resulting in a fair few injuries, and whilst some were due to the physicality, it was mainly my body saying that’s enough !!
I really didn’t want to give up playing, so when I was given the chance at Arsenal by my good mate Dave, I played a tournament and became hooked.
Without the pace and power element, and the limited space available, the game very much relies on control and intelligence, and that take some adjustment for many.
How many times a week do you take part in Walking Football sessions?
I play once a week on a Tuesday morning, 10.00 to 12.00.
As i'm still working for a living, I cant make the indoor Thursday session.
Can you let the readers know about your Walking Football sessions in regards of which age group are they for, are they male only, female only or unisex sessions?
The sessions are basically mixed age, from over 50s to guys in their 70’s.
These are currently all male. We make sure things don’t get physical and make good allowance for the age variations.
When you play a game of Walking Football do you play to the WFA / WFU or FA rules and why did your club decide to follow those rules of the game?
We play WFA rules which we found to be the best in terms of understanding and fairness.
Describe the buzz you get having the opportunity to play a team sport again at your age?
Anyone who still plays will say the same thing. It’s a dream to still be playing the game we all love at our age.
The enthusiasm and love for the game is still there, no matter what the birth certificate may say !
What one or two things do you currently do in your training sessions that you think are important to avoid injury?
I think a good warm up is critical to reduce the risk of injury, at whatever age and level you play, and especially so when you get in the 50/70 bracket.
Ive suffered mainly from calf and hamstring pulls so they are the two areas I work on for 10 minutes before the sessions with a series of active stretches and movements. I try and jog for 5 mins just to get things moving.
Have you played competitive Walking Football, if so which tournaments / leagues?
Yes, i've played for both Arsenal and Chelmsford City in a number of Essex and London based tournaments, some of which were won, and enjoyed a great European adventure in Italy last year with some great teams from Manchester City, Norwich, COVE and others.
A day in Venice on our day off wasn’t too shabby either!
Chelmsford City Over 60’s finished Runners Up this season in the Essex WF League.
Has your diet changed since you have started playing Walking Football? If so what is different?
Not really. Ive always kept an eye on what I eat so the main benefit for me is the cardio work out you get.
Do you feel fitter and healthier since you have started playing Walking Football and if please describe how?
Its certainly kept me fit since I started.
If I had packed up football altogether, i'm sure things would have started to go downhill !!
I cover 11km to 12km during the 2 hour outdoor session, and that generally surprises people who’s distorted view of Walking Football was shaped by a certain TV advert !!
Forget boring treadmills or gym bikes !!
Can you describe any injuries you have suffered when playing Walking Football and can you let the readers know how they were caused?
Hamstring pulls are self-inflicted injuries usually caused by a poor warm up or just going that bit too mad for a ball.
Ive had some excellent sporty physio treatment and things are now much better in that department.
Contact injuries have been fairly minimal but, in some best forgotten tournaments from the last 12 months, where the refereeing was simply non-existent, i've had some tackles from behind that would have made Chopper Harris and Billy Bonds whince.
I'm practical about things. The odd contact injury is always a possibility, but from experience, these are usually accidental….usually……
Do you always have a club member present who has had first aid training at your games and training sessions, and is there a defibrillator available if needed?
We have first aiders yes, but im really not sure about the defib ?
I think oxygen cylinders would be a welcome addition though….
Has your social life changed since you started playing, and if so in what way?
More friends, more functions always means a more varied and fuller social life so yes, that is a big part of the game for me.
I also get some of the guys to come and see my Classic Rock covers band, Gunrunner (available for all Walking Football functions gentlemen - www.gunrunner.altpro.net) so happy days !
Does your club or facility where you play Walking Football hold any social or charity events connected with Walking Football and if so what were they?
Yes, we have dinners and nights out like most of the clubs, and Chelmsford always do a great post-tournament buffet washed down with a few pints.
What are your best and worst memories of playing Walking Football?
Best : Every game I play in as i'm doing what I love best.
Worst: Some of the tournaments from the early days that were, lets say a little on the brutal side, and were a real eye opener !
How else has playing Walking Football affected your life?
Friends, fitness and fun.
What do you like most about Walking Football?
Everything from the old dressing room micky taking and banter, the non-stop involvement on a small pitch, and sticking the ball in the back of the net… nothing beats that feeling!
What do you like least about Walking Football?
People who constantly jog/run and seem to have no self-control or will to change.
The worst one is running from behind to intercept the ball… you wonder how the hell someone got in first, and inevitably it’s a quick run off the ball that often goes unpunished.
Running WITH the ball is easier to spot, so it’s the off-the-ball runs that need the attention, and that is a hard task for one referee.
I sincerely hope that this issue is the one that the new breed of specially trained referees deal with harshly as it can spoil a game.
For me, two runs and its off the pitch. If you want to run, then go and play 6 or 11 a side.
Do you find it difficult NOT to run and what advice could you give someone in how to remain at walking pace?
Yes, it can be hard, but you have to self-police.
I know when i'm on the verge of a run and make a point of making sure a heel is on the ground at any one time.
Ive been pulled up probably five times in two years so hopefully i've got the message.
What are your goals for the future when playing Walking Football?
Just to play for as long as I can and enjoy this new lease of football life ive been given.
You really do feel honoured to be playing this game, and to the gents who developed it, a sincere thanks !
Ive got the England Over 60’s trials upcoming in February so am looking forward to giving it my best shot.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to play but is nervous about approaching a club or attending a Walking Football session for the first time?
Without exception, I have yet to meet any teams or individuals who were not welcoming and supportive.
Lifes too bloody short so get down to your local club and get playing.
What do your friends and family think about you playing a sport again at your age?
My old man at 89 never thought his 62 year old son would be playing football of any type, or playing Led Zeppelin covers in a band but hes chuffed to bits i'm out there doing something.
Remember, you are a long time retired/dead !!
There will come a point when you physically cannot play, but until that time comes, buy some boots (not bright orange or yellow please), get some shin pads and take the plunge !!
What are the costs involved in order for you to play Walking Football for foot ware, kit and weekly session fees?
I pay a very reasonable £5.00 for my two hour outdoor session.
The boots and kit are next to nothing these days.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Give walking Football a crack. If its not for you, then fair enough …at least you had a go.