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Bishop's Stortford Community Football Club over-45s go undefeated to win Greene King Essex Veterans League, Premier Division



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Bishop's Stortford Community Football Club over-45s completed a magnificent Greene King Essex Veterans League, Premier Division campaign undefeated as they were crowned champions.

The largest grassroots club in the country, which has around 1,000 members, is perhaps best known for its flourishing youth section.

But there are also players at the other end of their careers showing they have still got it.

BSCFC over-45s. Back row: Neil Brooks, Matt Nicholson, Mick o’Connor, Leon Dordoy, Steve Clarke, Simon Weeks, Nick Weekly, Tony Gavin, Tony Jackson, Craig Bell, Joe Feerick.Front Row: Andy Bates, Nigel Forde, Dom Burton, Dave Allen, John Ivory, Ken Trayling, Rob Green, David Wint, Simon Manchett.Notable squad members absent from photo: Jon Hooker, Steve Law, Turi Gjergji, Richard Cahill, Andrew Green, David Wilkinson, Fraser Higgs. (56834328)
BSCFC over-45s. Back row: Neil Brooks, Matt Nicholson, Mick o’Connor, Leon Dordoy, Steve Clarke, Simon Weeks, Nick Weekly, Tony Gavin, Tony Jackson, Craig Bell, Joe Feerick.Front Row: Andy Bates, Nigel Forde, Dom Burton, Dave Allen, John Ivory, Ken Trayling, Rob Green, David Wint, Simon Manchett.Notable squad members absent from photo: Jon Hooker, Steve Law, Turi Gjergji, Richard Cahill, Andrew Green, David Wilkinson, Fraser Higgs. (56834328)

"Cue images of slightly overweight dads trying to relive past glories, where even the slightest of injuries take weeks not days to heal. Of bald, beer-bellied blokes taking it seriously as if they're still 18," say the team in their own words. "If these are your assumptions, you are spot on."

However, this is fast becoming a trend as vets football in this area is enjoying a surge in popularity.

Less than 20 years ago, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings at Grange Paddocks were packed full of men's 11-a-side senior teams, with most players in their 20s and 30s. 'Get there early to get a pitch' was good advice, but now you can pick any pitch you wish at weekends. Younger players who step out of the game at under-18 level, perhaps due to going to university or working at weekends, seem to have ditched muddy 11-a-side pitches for midweek five-a-side leagues.

Vets football is slowly filling that grassy void. In 2013-14, the Greene King Essex Veterans League added an over-45 division to its under-35 league. Now it offers a Premier Division, two regional Division Ones and two regional Division Twos at over-45 level.

And BSCFC have proved to be the best this season, with a postponed cup final against Shenfield Association still to come in September giving them the opportunity to complete a brilliant double.

"Our players range from 45 to 62. Men are staying in the game longer when perhaps they thought they couldn't," said manager Andy Bates.

"Striker Joe Feerick kicked off the BSCFC vets team as an under-35 team in 2006 and has played every season since, continuing to bag the goals week in, week out at a spritely 52."

BSCFC over-45s topped their league with an unbeaten record
BSCFC over-45s topped their league with an unbeaten record

Bates runs the team with help from Tony Gavin, who is impressed by the level of football on display in the league.

He would also like to see someone get a new BSCFC under-35 team up and running.

"It's definitely not walking football. Most players played at a good level when they were younger and there are plenty of ex-pros and semi-pros still playing," said Gavin.

"One of our team has just been called up by England Over-50s and a few years ago one of the teams in our division used to call on former England striker Teddy Sheringham!"

Bates added: "The secret to success at this age is to have a large squad. And the less secret bit – make sure they're all good players!

"We've had a really successful squad for two years, but the pandemic meant two seasons of interrupted competition. We have stayed top again this season so to finally win the title is a really proud achievement."



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