Forest Return To Europe To Defend Titles

Just as Brian Clough’s men did in 1980 the NFFC walking football squad landed on Spanish soil to defend the European trophy they lifted a year previously.

Twelve months ago, the over 50’s and over 60’s sides both emerged victorious in the tournament hosted in Santa Ponsa, this time around they aimed to go one better with the formation of the over 70’s side. Yes, you read that correctly, a team of seventy-year-olds and above, including Graham Collier who played for Forest in the late 60’s and early 70’s, took to the field of play hoping to complete a remarkable treble for the Reds.

I caught up with Danny Boyes who manages the over 50’s side the evening before the squad flew out. “We’re under no illusions that it’ll be even harder to win it this year, the standard is higher with more quality sides involved, and a new three touch rule is in place. We’ve been training in preparation for the three-touch game, so we’ll be ready!”

To the outsider, walking football may seem like, well, quite frankly, a walk in the park. However, the NFFC walking sides faced a heavy schedule under the glare of the Spanish sun. It may only be ten minutes each way but factor in no less than six matches on the opening day, the first of which at 8:05am, and one soon sympathises.

Forest were heavily tipped to go far in the tournament once more, parading the likes of Nigel Jemson, Darren Hayes, and 1994 World Cup star, Bryan Roy. Terry Wilson has also declared interest to represent the squad in the future but his residency in California makes that a little difficult. Interspersed among these household names are a plethora of ex Forest youth and non-league players such as John Humphries, Ian Parkes, Vinny Duffy, Pat Walsh and the prolific Nigel Beere. As usual, Garry Birtles was in attendance in his ambassadorial role.

Having just retained the English title it was the perfect time to defend their European trophy, the weather even played a helping hand, Nigel Jemson tweeted to say it was cloudy and raining in the early stages of the competition. As mentioned earlier the standard is higher this time around with the likes of Ajax and even the French national side taking part. However, the Forest boys dismantled a previously unbeaten Birmingham Strollers side 7-1 in preparation for Mallorca. And it was a case of so far, so good, for NFFC as all three age groups progressed to the knockout stages of the tournament.

As always, it’s not all about the Forest stars of yesteryear and the numerous titles they’re racking up for the walking sides, the emphasis is to get more people playing the sport. Whilst the fitness benefits are clear to see, the positive effect it has on a person’s mental health is equally as important. Danny Boyes made special reference to Colin Wright, aged 72, who wanted to get involved with walking football. “Since he began playing his enthusiasm, attitude, and enjoyment of the sport has been clear for all to see, he’s really improved technically too.” Danny’s words are solid proof that walking football is nothing but a win, win activity, great for the mind, body and soul.

Such is the momentum of the walking game, especially in Nottingham with the NFFC lads, there is now talk of a women’s side emerging. And, given the growing number of age categories it has heightened the need to incorporate a kit man and a physio also; former Leicester City Goalkeeper Ian Andrews kindly takes time out from his Oakwood physio practice to heal the weary limbs of the NFFC players.

I kept close tabs on the three age groups as they entered the knockout stages and here’s how it unfolded; The over 50’s were defeated by a last gasp penalty in the final by FC Catalans. Whilst the over 60’s tournament ended in extreme controversy at the semi-final stage; seven minutes into the match versus Walking Bears Vissenaken their game was abandoned and NFFC were disqualified. Why? Apparently, they were late entering the field of play for kick off but if the competition’s administrative body is anything to go by, this is very sketchy, especially since they almost eliminated the Reds at the quarter final stage by recording their 4-0 victory as a defeat versus MSV Neuruppin.

The over 70’s made an excellent impact upon the tournament, equipping themselves brilliantly before also going out in the semi-final courtesy of a penalty shootout.

All three managers, Danny Boyes, Andy Muldoon and Dr Gareth Edwards, can be extremely proud of their respective sides and will all be back in action soon as the busy walking football schedule refuses to relent with many more tournaments and prospective trophies on the horizon.

If you’d like more information about the walking game Danny Boyes is available on Facebook, whilst on twitter you can access @NottinghamWF (Nottingham Walking Football) or simply google walking football near me.

Steve Corry

*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NottinghamWF Nigel Jemson, Garry Birtles, Bryan Roy and Graham Collier.

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