Pensioner from Wakefield to become world's oldest Sunday league player?

A pensioner from Wakefield could become the oldest player in history to lace up his boots in a competitive Sunday league football match, at the grand age of 80.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 3:56 pm
Family affair: John with his grandson Matty and son, Jonnny.

John Wootton is being lined up to make his debut for College FC this weekend, thanks to his son Jonny, who is manager of the Wakefield and District Sunday League team.

The day will be John senior's 80th birthday, and while most people of his age would celebrate in a relaxing fashion, he is being lined up to enter the field as a late substitute for the match against Kirklands Reserves in Eastmoor.

The game will be a family affair with John's grandson, 22-year-old Matty, also captain of the side.

Manager Jonny, 48, explained: "It was my idea, I've been thinking about what to do for this birthday and thought about getting him a game.

"There's nothing to play for in terms of league position and it's the end of the season, so I put it to the team and they were buzzing about it.

"He has got a dodgy knee and gets sciatica, but he loves his sport and keeps fit.

"I'll probably bring him on in the last 10 minutes, maybe at fullback and hopefully we can get him on the ball.

"Hopefully the other team won't flatten him!"

Having researched elderly players, Jonny found an online article about an 83 year-old from the south coast who said he was looking for a Sunday football team to play for, but it's uncertain if he ever got to play.

Birthday boy John may break the age record, but it's just another chapter in a lifetime love affair with sport.

Originally from Hemsworth, he was offered trials at Wolverhampton Wanderers as a youngster, but was persuaded by his parents to continue with his heating engineering apprenticeship, largely due to the lack of money in football at the time.

There was also interest from Rotherham United, but at the age of 37, it was too late to start his career in the game.

John says he played his last football match 40 years ago, but has kept himself fit and was even crowned the over 50s Yorkshire athletic champion for 800m and 1500m.

He is lifetime member of Wakefield District Harriers & Athletics Club, and in more recent years, he has been the coach of the England and Great Britain teams for athletes with learning difficulties.

So how does he feel about entering the field for one last time?

"it was a massive 'no' at first," explained John.

"I go to every match and help put the nets up, but I wasn't really interested in playing, but I got pressure from the rest of the team.

"I'm looking forward to it now.

"I'm pretty fit for my age, I sometimes walk eight, nine or 10-mile walks.

"It might be a case of walking football on Sunday though!"

The game will kick-off at 10.30am this Sunday, May 9, at Stanley Royd playing fields on Eastmoor Road.