Wakefield pensioner's return to football looks to be a world record

A pensioner who laced up his boots at the weekend could be a world record breaker, after playing in a competitive Sunday league match on his 80th birthday.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 5:04 pm
John Wootton, who played for College FC on Sunday at the age of 80.

John Wootton came on as a late substitute for College FC, thanks to his son Jonny, who is manager of the side and hatched the idea to help mark his special day.

And after trawling through the Guinness World Records website, Jonny believes he could soon be confirmed as the oldest player ever to take the field at this level.

Jonny, 48, said: "I've been looking at football records and the oldest player I could find was a guy from Egypt who is 74.

On the ball....John makes a darting run.

"I'll need to follow it up and have to get it validated but he could be the world's oldest player."

College FC ran out 3-2 winners against Kirklands Reserves at the Stanley Royd playing fields on Eastmoor on Sunday morning, and twice had to come from behind before snatching victory for the final match of the season.

But were they spurred on by the late entry of super-sub John?

The birthday boy said: "I do not how much of it was up to me, but it was a brilliant day.

Hattrick of Woottons....John with his son Jonny and grandson Matty.

"I wasn't nervous - I think I'm too old for nerves now!

"I touched the ball a few times and they kept trying to pass to me, but I ended up pulling my calf muscle.

"It was only a minute from the end but I had to come off because I couldn't run, but it was a fantastic day from beginning to end.

"There were family who came to watch who I had not seen for years, and it could be a world record, which is just brilliant."

Record breaker: John could be the world's oldest player.

Son Jonny said: "He was on for about seven minutes, he took a throw-in, made a couple of passes and put in a tackle.

"The other team were brilliant really, they realised what was going on."

The game was a family affair with John's grandson, 22-year-old Matty, also playing as captain of the side.

Jonny added: "It was my idea, I've been thinking about what to do for this birthday and thought about getting him a game.

Never too old for a telling off.....John is given a talking to by the referee.

"There was nothing to play for in terms of league position and it's the end of the season, so I put it to the team and they were buzzing about it."

The family celebrated in the College pub after the match with family, friends and teammates.

Originally from Hemsworth, John was offered trials at Wolverhampton Wanderers as a youngster, but was persuaded by his parents to continue with his heating engineering apprenticeship, largely due to the lack of money in football during that era.

There was also interest from Rotherham United, but at the age of 37, it was too late to start his career in the game.

A Barnsley fan, John says he played his last football match 40 years ago, but has kept himself fit and was even crowned the over 50s Yorkshire athletic champion for 800m and 1500m.

After his wife Jean passed away in 2001 and sport helped him overcome his grief.

The retired council worker is a lifetime member of Wakefield District Harriers & Athletics Club, and in more recent years, he has been the coach of the England and Great Britain teams for athletes with learning difficulties, travelling all over the world.

John admitted that his first reaction was to turn down son Jonny's offer to give him a game on Sunday.

"I go to every match and help put the nets up, but I wasn't really interested in playing, but I got pressure from the rest of the team," he said.

But was Sunday his final swansong?

"I do not know," he added. "I'm now registered, as the team keep pointing out, but I don't know if they'll putting me on if they want to win a match."