Michael Ryan, 72, first joined Notts County Football in the Community’s (FITC) Extra Time 8 years ago when the project was first launched. At the time, the sessions were held at Meadow Lane stadium as a pilot to give men aged 50 and over an opportunity to take part in regular football sessions.
With only 6 players to start with, the project has grown rapidly since with participant numbers doubling and sometimes even tripling in recent years.
Michael said: “It was after I had a triple bypass that I was recommended to keep fit and healthy, but I wasn’t going to play walking football.
“When it first launched, it was just great to get a chance to kick a ball around, then we got better and better. At first, we played on the stadium right here at Meadow Lane and then we moved to Bulwell and other places, so we’ve been all over Nottingham.
“Even now the lads come from all over, and you don’t have to be a Notts County fan either, it’s a good mix of people who come and play every week, we all have a good laugh.
“The coaches are fantastic, too, we have Saul who’s an ex-professional football player and other coaches who are all great lads. It all starts with warm-ups, a few drills and then ends with a game of football.
“I love the fact that I’m one of the originals and the longest standing one here. Even at my age, I do still want to run around if I can and I’m intending to play until I’m 80.”
Although not ready to retire yet, Michael is already collecting things that will remind him of the years spent playing football at Notts County FITC’s Extra Time. He’s made a donation in aid of FITC for the picture of him, which has been on the wall at Meadow Lane office for several years.
“I wanted to have this picture as it’s something my grandkids can have one day. I knew it was hanging on the wall in your [FITC’s] office and thought I’d ask if I could have it for myself. It’s a great little reminder of all the good times we’ve had.”
Project Manager, Ian Richardson, commented: “For as long as I’ve known Michael, he’s always been a really enthusiastic football player. If you ever saw him play, you’d think he’s in his 40s not 70s – it’s just the way he runs, the energy that he puts into the game – honestly, it’s amazing to watch him play.
“That is also what’s so great about the programme, it gives these guys a chance to play the game they love no matter what age they are.
“We’re always on the lookout for more players to join the programme who, just like Michael, can greatly benefit from regular football sessions whilst enjoying the social aspect of it at the same time.”
If you’re interested in joining, or know somebody who is, the Extra Time sessions run every Monday 10am-12pm at Melbourne Park, YMCA Community Centre; £5 per session.