Bill tackles age barrier and still plays football at 70

LOCKDOWN has presented challenges for Bill Dean, Saddleworth 3Ds oldest player.

The 70-year-old from Dobcross, who pre-Covid still played weekly for the veterans, admitted being unable to play football has affected his fitness.

Bill, who cannot wait to resume, explained: “It is noticeable at my age how you lose your flexibility when you are not playing.

Bill Dean

“You can go for a run or cycle, but it is not the same as football where there is a lot of twisting and turning which keeps joints fit.

“I must admit I have also missed the adrenalin you get from playing competitive sport.”

Bill also believes playing is beneficial for older players’ mental health and wellbeing.

“Whereas women often tend to socialise more, for a lot of men this is their social group and social outlet, and football has a positive affect on their mental health,” he explained.

Bill added doing Joe Wicks type workouts at home failed to appeal and most of his exercise has been done carrying out jobs at home – building work, gardening and tree cutting.

The vets, who are players aged over 35, are hoping soon to resume their weekly sessions at Mossley Hollins High School.

It is non-competitive as a group meet and split into two teams for their hour-long 11-a-side game.

Bill, who was a speedy winger in his youth, has gradually moved back to prolong his playing days and is now a goalkeeper. He said every striker ought to have a spell between the posts as that gives them a greater understanding of angles and would be beneficial to their goalscoring.

But he remains an outfield player in five-a-side in which he plays for informal groups at Waterhead Academy, Saddleworth Leisure Centre and Copley Recreation Centre.

And he is not the oldest player in those groups – that honour goes to radio presenter Mike Sweeney while Leicester Tigers’ rugby union coach Mike Ford also joins them.

Bill did briefly retire in his 40s after sustaining a serious injury, but the lure of playing proved too strong.

And latterly he had a serious problem with sciatica admitting he had to learn how to walk and run again.

He puts his fitness down to being a fell runner in his younger days, something he attributes to strengthening joints and providing him with stamina.

It was at Knaresborough Grammar School where Bill began playing and he recalled Norman Hunter, the Leeds United and England legend, attending to coach them.

After moving across the Pennines, Bill played mainly in pub leagues and five-a-side in the Salford area and remembered playing against brothers John and Darren Sheridan who became top professionals.

Bill, who in married to Eileen and has six children and 13 grandchildren, added he achieved one ambition which was to play in the same side as Kyle and Simon, two of his sons.

Another dream would be the play alongside one of his grandsons with three generations in the same side, something he does not know if it will ever happen.

Bill, who worked in management, the building trade and latterly ran a haulage, still keeps busy writing columns on haulage and logistics for two magazines.

To mark Bill’s landmark birthday, he received a surprise visit from Saddleworth 3Ds who presented him with a special shirt with the number 70 and his name displayed, 3Ds bobble hat, bottle of gin to “kill the aches and pains” and a card.

And team-mates from the vets clubbed together to buy him a new smartphone so he is able to join them on their social media forums.

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