Veteran footballers prove you’re never too old for a bit of competition

OCC’s Chris Jones with a defensive header. Pictures: OX66725 Denis Kennedy

OCC’s Chris Jones with a defensive header. Pictures: OX66725 Denis Kennedy Buy this photo

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

AN OVER-50s football team have already taken on the English and Welsh national senior sides and now they’re hoping to net a hat-trick.

The Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) Veterans were beaten 2-1 by England Over-50s in a friendly at Long Hanborough playing fields on Sunday.

It followed a 4-1 defeat to Wales in January, but now the club want to play another national side in a bid to promote the game among older men.

Assistant player-manager Richard Wightman, 59, said: “The England team had all played to a reasonable level so the skill level was quite high.

“It was a good experience to test ourselves against people of that standard.

“It’s been great to play against two international teams and it would be good to complete the hat-trick.

“Maybe we can set up a game against Scotland.”

Witney Gazette:

  • OCC’s Paul DeFreitas challenges Stewart Robbins for a header

County council worker Mr Wightman, from Adderbury near Banbury, set up the OCC Vets with some colleagues last year and established the first ever over-50s league in the county for this season.

There are six teams, including Witney Royals and Goring United Good Old Boys, while former Wimbledon striker Dean Holdsworth plays for Droitwich.

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Games are 40 minutes each way, rather than 45 minutes for traditional football matches, and repeat substitutions are allowed.

The oldest player in the OCC Vets team is 65 and they play about 12 games a season at their Long Hanborough home ground.

Mr Wightman previously played for over-35s teams but retired about 15 years ago, before making his comeback this season. He said: “Most people have played throughout their lives but people stop at a certain age, and then don’t realise there’s anything else after that to carry on.

“A lot of people still play cricket in their 50s and 60s, and I think with most sports you could do that if you wanted.

“I find it addictive and it’s a good way of keeping fit. You need to watch out for injuries but most people are quite respectful.

“The pace is slightly different and people tend to use their heads more, but it’s a reasonable level of football. There’s skilful players still around.”

Witney Gazette:

  • OCC, left to right: Back: Graham Marshall, Alan Thomas, Pete Doolan, Simon Dickens, Nick Brown, Paul DeFreitas, Richard Wightman, Jamie Spooner and Richard Stanley. Front: Nigel Barrett, Kieran Brooks, Martin Woodley, Andy Sharp, Chris Jones, mascot Owen James, Andy Chalmers, Mark Ginsberg and Paul Staines

On Sunday, Jamie Spooner gave OCC Vets the lead but England came from behind to win in a hailstorm.

Their team included several former professionals who once played in the lower reaches of the Football League.

Witney Gazette:

  • England Vets. Left to right: Back: Andy Durrance, Andy Gombas, Colin Williams, Darryll Bravenboer, Geoff Ridgeon, Stewart Robbins, Mike Burles and Russell Sparret. Front: Harry Brooks, Ian Greenwood, Ron Farmer, mascot Euan Barrett, Paul Mitchell, Steve Edkins and Dougie Alderson

Oxfordshire FA football development officer Sarah Woods said: “A lot of counties have veterans leagues for over-35s and some counties have walking football for over-60s but there aren’t many with an over-50s league, so I think we’re quite unique.”

  • An over-50s festival, including a six-a-side tournament, will be held at Carterton Community College on June 22 from 10.30am.
  • To register a team, which can have three players under 50, call 01993 894405 or email


  • Nick Brown, 45, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) ICT systems engineer, from Abingdon
  • Kieran Brooks, 54, Oxford University Brasenose College porter, from Kidlington
  • Richard Wightman, 59, OCC worker, from Adderbury
  • Paul DeFreitas, 48, builder, from Oxford; Martin Woodley, 52, OCC worker, from Carterton
  • Simon Dickens, 50, CEO of computer data collecting service, from Oxford
  • Chris Jones, 60, from Oxford
  • Nigel Barrett, 46, insurance broker, from Oxford
  • Andy Sharp, 50, assistant service manager, from Chipping Norton
  • Andy Chalmers, 48, Tesco worker, from Marcham
  • Jamie Spooner, 49, OCC early intervention officer, from Oxford.


  • Alan Thomas, 65, electrician from Oxford
  • Mark Ginsburg, 52, OCC social worker, from Cowley
  • Paul Staines, 51, OCC local government worker, from Horspath
  • Richard Stanley, 51, electrical training officer, from Witney
  • Pete Doolan, 62, roofing company owner, from Kidlington
  • Graham Marshall, 54, from Horton-cum-Studley.

Also in squad but did not play:

  • Gregg Powell, 50, Virgin Airline pilot, from Yarnton.

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