TERRY Butcher officially opened the new portable floodlights at Sizewell Seniors Walking Football Club.
The former Ipswich Town and England defender, who grew up in nearby Lowestoft, was invited along on Wednesday evening to declare the portable floodlights open at Sizewell Sports & Social Club.
The Football Foundation contributed £3,564, which is 75 per cent towards the total cost of £4,752, with the club raising the rest.
Butcher told the players: “They look fantastic and are a great thing to have. It’s also great to see you enjoying your football and playing reasonably well – I have been impressed with a few goals scored out there already!”
Among those taking part was Robert Eagle, who Butcher signed while manager of Inverness Caledonian Thistle between 2009 and 2013 after he was released by Norwich City.
Eagle, who currently plays for Leiston in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central Division, regular attends the weekly sessions.
After the opening Butcher, who won 77 caps and captained both Ipswich Town the national team, said: “It is really good to be here and to visit one of my local clubs and see everyone.
“They are a good group and part of a growing number of clubs who are encouraging Walking Football, which is open to men, women and youngsters as well.
“When you get to my age it’s just easier to walk! A few of my ex-teammates play and they really enjoy it.”
Sizewell Seniors Walking Football Club organiser Andy Jones said: “We are very honoured that Terry, who is an Ipswich Town and England legend, came along and graced us with his presence – we can’t thank him enough.
“Everyone was interested to listen to what he had to say.”
Jones formed the club around May 2019 after watching his grandson playing in the FA People's Cup for Lowestoft side Waveney.
He said: “I was so inspired by players that had to overcome such great difficulties to play. Being over fifty my options were limited, but Walking Football seemed like a good fit and after much help from Suffolk FA and none from Covid, the Sizewell Club was formed and here we are!”
The club currently has around 20 players, ranging from 18 to their early 70s, and they play on Wednesday evenings at Leiston Leisure Centre during the winter as the tarmac playing surface at the Sizewell Sports & Social Club is not very safe if wet or icy.
Andy continued: “Now we have our new floodlights we can set up on the grass and stay at Sizewell Sports & Social Club longer into the winter.
“The floodlights will enable us to utilise the resources at the Sizewell Sports & Social Club for longer during the winter, making it a lot safer during icy conditions and we will be able to play other clubs.
“We have had a few teams play us at home and it’s fair to say they didn't enjoy playing on our hard surface.
“We have also entered tournaments and played really well. Unfortunately, Covid has really delayed this side to Walking Football.”
Jones added that the club were grateful to the Sizewell Power Station branch of Unite for their support of the club, including supplying new tracksuit tops, and also for financial support received from EDF Energy and Sizewell B and C.
Terry Butcher (back row, centre) joins members of Sizewell Seniors Walking Football Club at the opening of the portable floodlights. Main photograph: Terry Butcher with Sizewell Seniors Walking Football Club Organiser Andy Jones (right) and Peter Coxage, Health & Safety Officer at the Sizewell Station Branch of Unite, at the opening.
Suffolk FA Football Development Officer (Growth) Kirsty Smith said: “Sizewell Seniors have developed and grown massively over the past two years.
“They started purely as a turn up and play session, where older participants could come along and enjoy a kickabout. They are quickly becoming a fully functioning club, open to all genders, abilities and ages.
“They have secured two kits, they are travelling around the county to play in friendlies/festivals and they are playing a part in creating a Suffolk Walking Football League.
“Their passion for the game is undeniable and they have worked hard to secure the funding for the portable floodlights which will enable them to play on grass all year round.
“A huge thank you to Terry Butcher for coming along tonight. He is rightly revered as a legend for his exploits with Ipswich Town and England and he really is an idol to all the players here tonight.
“So for him to give up his time, come along, open the lights, chat to them and just spend time with them is incredible and something I know they won’t forget.
“We would like to encourage more of our grassroots clubs to utilise and apply for the Football Foundation funding as it is a simple process but can have a huge impact on the clubs, their facilities and the players involved.
“If any clubs out there want more information on this and would like help with securing portable floodlights or anything else then please contact myself or Matt Stebbings at Suffolk FA.”