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Super-fit great grandad, 80, is UK's oldest Sunday league player

·3-min read
John Wootton is believed to have become the oldest Sunday League player on his 80th birthday. (SWNS)
John Wootton is believed to have become the oldest Sunday League player on his 80th birthday. (SWNS)

A pensioner is believed to have become the UK's oldest Sunday League player after jogging onto the pitch to play a match on his 80th birthday. 

John Wootton from Wakefield, West Yorks, made his debut for College FC on Sunday May 9, when he came off the bench against top of the league Kirklands Reserves.

He marked his Wakefield and District Sunday League debut at the venerable age of 80 in a winning performance which ended 3-2 for the home side.

And it seems Wootton did an excellent job during his seven minute cameo at the end of the match, executing a successful pass and a tackle – and even taking a little tumble.

Wooton made his debut for College FC against Kirklands Reserves. (SWNS)
Wooton made his debut for College FC against Kirklands Reserves. (SWNS)

Having not played competitive football in 40 years, Wootton described the experience as the "best birthday" he could have dreamed of.

The Liverpool and Barnsley supporter said it was an "unbelievable day" which ended with a couple of pints of draught ale with his family at the pub.

The dad of four, grandad of 13 and great grandad of nine also got to play alongside his grandson, Matty Wootton, 22, the team’s captain.

Watch: UK's oldest runner to compete for England age 80. 

And the family connection didn't end there, as Wootton's son, Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Wootton, 48, was managing the team on the sidelines.

“I came on as a sub in the last five minutes, and everyone kept passing me the ball but I kept telling them not to," Wootton says of his appearance. 

“I had a few touches, a throw in. Someone sent me a through ball and I actually ran after it. It was nice.

“This is the best gift I’ve ever received, nothing will ever top this.”

John Wootton in his youth. (SWNS)
John Wootton in his youth. (SWNS)

Wootton's love of football began when he was offered a trial at Wolverhampton Wanderers aged 17, in a season when Wolves finished top of the Football League First Division.

But his parents pushed him to continue his heating engineering apprenticeship, as the sport had a £20 maximum wage cap.

Though he last played a competitive match around four decades ago, he has kept himself fit through the years and carved out an impressive athletics career after being crowned over-50s Yorkshire champion for the 800m and 1500m events.

More recently, he travelled the world as the coach of Team Great Britain’s athletes with learning difficulties.

When Wootton's wife of 40 years, Jean, sadly lost her battle with cancer aged 57 in 2001, he said that sport offered him a purpose. 

“Days like today just go to show how incredible sports can be," the retired council worker explains. 

“I can’t do what I used to, but that’s the beauty of the sport."

Wootton with his team mates. (SWNS)
Wootton with his team mates. (SWNS)

Grandson Matty, who captained the team from the midfield, said he was impressed with his grandad's performance.

“He played well, he is very fit for his age," he said. “He was a really good player back in the day, so he’s got a great football brain.

“He has always given me advice on how to play the game, I really look up to him.”

Additional reporting SWNS.

Watch: Meet Britain's oldest butcher who worked through the pandemic.