“CLOSE him down, get tighter to him” — it’s something you will probably hear on any football pitch on any Sunday morning.
But it was the reply that struck a chord.
“Calm down, I’ve only got one lung,” was the response.
Of course, it was the Mature Millers walking football team meeting for their weekly kickabout.
The group, made up mainly of pensioners, was originally set up by Rotherham United Community Sports Trust and meet every Wednesday at Rotherham Indoor Football Centre.
And among them and first through the door was their very own football celebrity —Tom Charlton — sibling of football’s most famous brothers Bobby and Jack who helped England to lift the World Cup in 1966.
Tom, now 70, enjoys every minute of his time with the Mature Millers.
“I love it, I absolutely love it,” Tom says with a strong Geordie accent which has stayed with him since moving to Rotherham from Northumberland 33 years ago.
“My personal experience of walking football is that it’s got me fit, healthy, feeling better mentally and the social side of it has given me some very good friends.”
Tom moved to his Eastwood home as part of his work with the Miners’ Rescue Service and still lives there today.
While Bobby and Jack were enjoying glittering international careers, Tom was working as an assistant superintendent at the former station on Erskine Road, Eastwood.
On the big day itself, 51 years back, Tom was crowded around a TV at his then girlfriend’s house in Ashington to watch his brothers and their teammates triumphing over West Germany at Wembley.
Speaking about his own footballing background, Tom explains: “When I was about 12 I broke my leg and I didn’t play football because I was frightened of breaking it again.
“When I was young I felt I always had to compete with Bobby and Jack and I just couldn’t live up to it.
“I broke my kneecap playing football in the North East when I was about 23. I didn’t play again until I moved to Scotland years later and I realised I was too old and slow so my football career ended — until I started walking football that is.
“But now I’m the only one of three of us still playing so I guess you could say I’ve won.”
Granddad-of-four Tom’s dad was a boxer and enjoyed gardening but his mum had four brothers — Jackie, Stan, George and Jimmy Milburn — who were star names in professional football.
“We were all born into football — it was a way of life. I never knew anything else,” Tom says.
Tom said he was still in regular contact with his brothers, adding: “When I told Jack I played walking football he said: ‘You silly old buggar,’ which is just pure Jack.”
Despite being keen to promote the Mature Millers group, Tom added: “I have never been a bragger and I have always avoided anything that would put me across as being big-headed.
“I tell people funny stories about my brothers because I am incredibly proud of them.”
Tom has become a keen Millers fan himself since moving to South Yorkshire and still goes to every home game.
And as for a message for anyone thinking of trying walking football, he said: “Just do it. It’s helped me so much. I am so conscious that there are so many people who would benefit from getting off their arses — there’s no other way of putting it.
“We have got an ageing population who are healthier than they’ve ever been but they are being neglected. It’s as though it’s either bingo or drinking for the elderly but it really isn’t.”
The Mature Millers meet at Rotherham Indoor Football Centre, Eastwood, every Wednesay from 12.30pm.
For more information call chairman Danny Brailsford on 07852 933599.
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