Veteran reporter Bob Haywood told the Press Club website earlier this year all about the benefits of taking part in the growing sport of “walking football.”
Now another media “old fella” – 65 year pensioner old Nick Hudson – is back on the sports ground. This time, pulling on a red-and-black hockey shirt for the club he first joined 47 years ago!
It’s nearly a quarter of a century since Nick last played and he’s currently the oldest person competing for Atherstone Adders. But now what makes playing extra-special is that Nick is turning out alongside his 13 year old grandson, Luke.
In fact they are the first “two-generation-gap” players in the North Warwickshire club’s history, which, ironically goes back to 1953, the year Nick was born.
Nick said: “It’s great fun and a privilege to be turning out for my old club with Luke who is learning the proper way to play a sport which has transformed itself since I first started playing at King Edward VI Grammar School exactly 50 years ago.
Luke, a pupil at Nuneaton’s Higham Lane School, is getting the opportunity each week – through the Adders’ academy coaching scheme – to learn the finer points of hockey, at an earlier age, from a raft of dedicated experts, added Nick.
The pair have already enjoyed linking up in the first four league games of Adders’ Badgers Seconds campaign – as yet without a successful result, they admit.
“It’s great to learn a new sport from such keen and dedicated coaches – and to play with the ‘old fella’ on Saturdays,” enthused Luke.
Nick’s decision to go back to his first real sporting love is down to a lifestyle change in his eating habits. A Slimming World devotee at Thursday night sessions at Nuneaton’s Chase hotel, Nick has lost 7st in three years.
“At just over 11st, I’m lighter now than when I made my debut for Atherstone as an 18-year-old on the Higham Grange pitch in 1971. I scored that day in a 1-1 draw but I’m not sure I could do the same now,” added Nick. “Playing a sweeper role is probably my limit now.”
The club, once the Cinderella of hockey sides between Nuneaton and Tamworth, is now the leading light in the area – enjoying a higher league status than both its neighbours.
It’s a far cry from when Nick started at Atherstone – sharing the grass pitches with the rugby club at Ratcliffe Road. The hockey club found itself fighting for survival in the late 1970s due to a mass exodus of players.
During Nick’s tenure as club captain from 1979-84, the club made numerous appeals for players – just to stay in existence. “When I captained the club and first team, we nearly folded in the late 1970s when many of our players jumped ship and went to Nuneaton Hockey Club,” added Nick. “When I needed help I turned to the club’s oldest player – the late Robin Hayns – as my mentor. He played the game into his 70s and was a wonderful ambassador for the club and the sport,” said Nick.
“But the driving force behind Atherstone Adders’ success today is Mick Thomas who ironically joined in the late 1970s when I put out an appeal in the local press for players to save the club from folding.
“Ex Atherstone schoolteacher Mick, a few months younger than me, has been with the club ever since and along with wife, Jill, has transformed its fortunes with the help of dedicated members, with quite a number with two, three and four members of the same family all playing.
Former Birmingham Evening Mail reporter Nick, who now runs his own media agency, has worked for national publications in the UK and newspapers in Spain and Cyprus.