Golden oldies grace Etihad as Man City backs walking football scheme
Football giants Manchester City have a team of new players gracing the Etihad - with a combined age of more than 700 years.
The club is backing a council scheme helping put a spring back into the step of senior soccer players through walking football games.
Each week the team of golden oldie midfield generals and wrinkly wing wizards are put through their paces by club coaches at the Etihad complex as players aged between 50 and 83 relive their football youth.
More silver hair than David Silva, the pace is slowed down, with running not allowed and no passes over head height.
The project by Manchester City Council, the club's City in the Community scheme and three local clinical commissioning groups is part of a long-term health and social care plan, with the emphasis on prevention rather than cure by encouraging people to get involved in their community and stay active and healthy.
Trefor Phillips, 67, who laced up his boots again recently after a 40-year absence, said: "The whole experience has been magic.
"I'm so much fitter now and I'm able to do things that I couldn't even do 20 years ago.
"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.
"If I could style myself on any City player it would be David Silva - he's poetry in motion.
"The closest I've got to fame is through my granddaughter - she's always telling her friends at school that 'Granddad plays for Manchester City'."
Former City star Mike Summerbee, a supporter 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 well-being.
"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."
Councillor Paul Andrews, executive member for adult health and well-being at Manchester City Council, said: "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."