Suffolk footballers playing much longer these days

AGE NO BARRIER: An increasing number of Suffolk footballers are carrying on playing into their forties – and beyond.

Nearly 40 clubs from the county are members of the Anglia Access Veterans’ League.

And the tremendous growth of veteran football is such that this league that covers Norfolk and Suffolk has risen from six clubs in 2000 to 66 this season.

Players have to be over 35 to be eligible with 11 divisions of six teams with FA restrictions meaning that games have to be spaced at two-weekly intervals.

League chairman Dave Etheridge was involved in forming the league and he is a prime example of what benefits it can bring to those who want to carry on playing.

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“I stopped playing last season when I turned 69,” said Dave.

“There are a number of players who go on to a good age in our lower divisions, but in the Premier Division and Division One they are mainly under 40.”

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Woodbridge, who have the likes of Paul Smith, Simon Fryatt and Dean Garnham in their team, are members of the top division along with Greshams-based Eastern Electricity Old Boys.

Whitton United, Bury Town, Framlingham and Stowupland are members of Division One, and in the regional divisions from the Second Division down clubs from this part of the world include: Fore Hamlet, Kesgrave, Albion Mills, Leiston, Wickham Market, Brantham, Claydon, Ipswich Parks, Chilton, Bar 129 (Felixstowe), Felixstowe Harpers, Felixstowe Falcons, Coddenham, St Clements Hospital, Brickies, Ipswich Revolution, Ipswich United and Suffolk Police.

“With cup competitions most teams can play up to 20 games, and we have ex-professionals involved including Ruel Fox (Whitton) and Simon Charlton (Bungay),” added Etheridge.

“But I do point out to new clubs that they need a squad of around 20 players as you have to cover for injuries etc.”

Norfolk Football Association this season began their own veteran league and have 12 clubs.

“We lost 12, but we have gained others and we’re only four or five clubs short on last term ourselves,” added Etheridge, a man who has done much to enable players to keep playing for much longer these days.

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