After derby success, it’s no wonder City manager Pep Guardiola recently admitted that he’s so obsessed with midfielders that he’d like to sign a thousand of them.
Well, there’s a new team in town – that can match his big numbers – if age is a measure of success.
Trevor Philips, aged 67, is just one of new breed of latter-life sportsmen who have taken up walking football as a way of keeping fit and making friends.
Each week, he joins a team of like-minded men, aged from 50 to 83, to train with City in the Community coaches at the iconic Etihad stadium. Between them, the average combined age of a team can reach an impressive 700-plus years.
Their version of the beautiful game is slower and more sedate – following usual football rules – except that running is not allowed and the ball must not go over head height.
Trevor, who had a new hip 16 years ago, and then a knee replacement in 2012, says he has not looked back since walking back on to the pitch after a gap of some 40 years.
“The whole experience has been magic,” he says. “I’m so much fitter now and I’m able to do things that I couldn’t even do twenty years ago. My overall health and flexibility have improved so much that if I go out walking with my wife she is always telling me to slow down”.
Each week the coaches take the team through warm-ups and exercises matched to their ability before they start a game, where speed-walking is allowed, but any running is strictly vetoed.
“It’s actually really hard when you start because all your natural instincts are to run for the ball,” says Trevor. “But, you have to resist it and really concentrate on footwork, control and anticipating where the ball is going to go so that you are in the right place”.
Trevor, who is retired but still helps out occasionally at the family’s stable business, says that the camaraderie of the game is just as valuable as the sport – and has been a way of getting some of his widowed teammates to socialise again.
City legend Mike Summerbee, a big fan 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 wellbeing.
Speaking on behalf of Manchester’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups, Ian Williamson, said: “Trevor’s story is exactly the type of approach that shows the potential of what our communities can offer in keeping people both happy and healthy”.