Meet the Sussex veteran due to be player-manager for an England football team today

The first ever NHS Challenge Trophy match for players over 70 is to be played at St George’s Park today (Sep 23) – and Pevensey Bay’s Ken Pollock can’t wait to be involved.

The England 70s squad with Ken Pollock far left of the front row
The England 70s squad with Ken Pollock far left of the front row

He is player-manager of the England 70s side, a team that has evolved from earlier 50s and 55s sides, an idea instituted by Mike Burles which in the years since has promoted the establishment of 60s and 65s teams.

Pollock said: “I am 73 and play regular 90 minute Sunday morning non-veterans’ football for Grove Grovellers in Hythe, playing alongside players aged from 27 to 73 (me)!”

The NHS match takes place this afternoon for a cup that showcases and reflects the links between football, physical exercise and many elements of health in senior adults. It will be officiated by former Premier league referee Dermot Gallagher.

Players from across the country will be representing English and Welsh teams in the first ever game of its kind.

Showcasing the true nature of veteran football, one England representative player, John Shannon jnr, aged 79, will compete in the game while being watched by his father, John Shannon snr, aged 104.

Pollock said: “The recent pandemic has shown the importance of physical fitness, as statistically exercise has been a preventative and curative agent for older people. To mark this, we have called the cup the NHS Challenge Trophy, to reflect our gratitude for their work over the last 18 months.

“Attending the game, we are lucky enough to have the Shannons, father and son, aged 104 and 79 respectively, watching and playing.

“There is no finer testament to the benefits of our game than can be found in their matchday attendance.”

Holly Murdoch, general manager at St George’s Park, said: “Over the past nine years, we’ve hosted many different age groups, different sports, and different forms of football at St George’s Park – so to welcome the first ever over-70s NHS Challenge Trophy is a real honour and another moment that we are incredibly proud of.

“We all know the important role that football can play in people’s lives, and we hope this inspires the older generation to dust off their boots and get playing football again.”

The match will be played at one of St George’s Park’s stunning indoor pitches with a 2pm start. Pollock added: “I have had a number of meetings with the FA either face to face or via webinars over a number of years about the project. “We were lucky enough to have John Shannon snr receive the FA 2017 Supporter of the Year award.”