Exactly, not approximately or around, but exactly 32 weeks and 6 days ago, we had our last Sankey Walking Football session due to lockdown (I). That was it, boom stopped. This is our flagship session, it being the very first session we started nearly 4 years ago (we celebrate our birthday on 6th April 2021) and our most popular session as well as our baby.
For many of our regulars, this was the last football they played. Imagine this. You get the opportunity through a great version of the game of football to come back out of retirement after 20/30/40 years and play again with mates and feeling the elation and joy of getting a ball back at your feet. The banter, friendship and everything that goes with football, socialising, physical and mental health all there again. Then it stops and you don't get the opportunity to play again.
Yes, we've been able to get some games on, but on a different time and day where most of the players were unable to attend and we did a special at Christmas which was great and a lot of fun, but it wasn't the same as getting everyone back together with the promise of it being a regular thing.
The trouble with restarting our sessions is and was always going to be venue availability. Certainly, in this current world when outdoors sport was the only sport allowed and Warrington being rich in participants for sport, especially football, most venues were booked up in advance until the summer training kicked in when teams go to grass pitches. On that basis we were resigned when it was announced in February, that grass roots sport could restart, that we would only be able to bring back what we had started in September 2020 , the Penketh Walking Football and Women's only Walking Football, which are both fantastic in their own right, but only accessible to a few and not the players who were playing back in March last year.
As luck would have it and only due to the number of friends we have in the footballing community, we got wind of an evening slot becoming vacant and after a few very belated messages, we got confirmation that we could restart an evening session.
Well we didn't take too much persuading to agree and with only 24 hours or less on the clock to go before we kicked a ball again, we had to do some pretty hurried contacting and ringing around. Admittedly it was pretty late in the day, but it was great to see the smiling faces of the guys that turned up all keen and eager to restart. From where the pitch is situated, you get a good view of the entrance gates and to get there from the car park, you have to walk along a bit of a wide alley way and through the said gates. From our vantage point, it was a bit like watching the contestants in "I'm a celebrity" enter the arena without the smoke and lights and more of a case of get me in there. In essence, it was more about the build-up and initial meetings between old friends than the actual playing time. Yes, it was great and yes it was fun, but it all just slipped into the norm like we'd never been away. Comfy slippers anyone?