Former Cheltenham Town and Forest Green player Dave Norton is a champion in walking football

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Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Friday, 29th September 2017, 09:00, Tags:

Dave Norton (front, left) after Birmingham Walking Football Club’s League Champions Cup win
We all know about people who can talk a good a game… well, Dave Norton can walk a good game.

The one-time Cheltenham Town midfielder, who ran for miles and miles up and down the right flank during the club’s never-to-be-forgotten Conference-winning season in 1998/99, is now big into walking football.

And it’s certainly a sport that the 52-year-old has taken in his stride as at the weekend he helped Birmingham Walking Football Club win the League Champions Cup.

“It means we’re the best team in the country,” said Norton with justifiable pride, adding, “it’s great to still be winning things.”

So how did Norton get involved in walking football?

“I started playing two years ago,” he said. “I did laugh when I first started and I thought, ‘Is this really what I’ve come to?’

“But I love it now and I’ve been asked along for England trials!

“I play in the same team as Darren Bradley who used to be captain of West Brom. We were kids together at Villa.

“Now I go to his home, we go and play, we win and then we have a few beers – and we do have a few! I stay at his and then I drive home on Sunday. It’s brilliant!”

Birmingham qualified for the League Champions Cup by winning their regional league and then came through five round-robin games in Solihull before defeating Seaton Carew 1-0 in the final play-off. It was a competition that saw Gloucester club Abbeymead Rovers finish third after defeating Herne Bay from Kent in a third/fourth place play-off

While walking football is clearly great fun, it does appear that the sport – which only got up and running in 2011 – is starting to get a little bit more serious.

“We’ve just got a new purpose-built ground in Solihull,” said Norton. “Once people become more aware of the game I think it will grow and grow.

“It’s a thinking man’s game and you have to keep two or three steps ahead all of the time. You can’t run past anyone so you’ve got to pass and be constantly on the move. It’s like a game of chess, it’s a great game.”

And how does someone who used to run for fun back in the day stop himself from breaking into a trot in his new sport?

“You have to,” laughed Norton, who these days runs Nottingham-based soccer school Draper Norton Football with former Villa and Notts County midfielder Mark Draper. “If you break into a trot three times you get sin-binned.”

And while Norton, who also played for and managed Forest Green Rovers, must make sure that he plays the game at walking pace, it seems that the sport itself is developing at a much greater speed.

England will host the 2019 European Championships and the powers-that-be also have plans for a World Cup the following year.

At this stage in its development there is no standard format for walking football with matches played over anything from 12 minutes to 40.

They can also be five or six a side depending on the tournament, but Norton knows where he likes playing.

“We rotate the team but I like to play up front, I’m the quickest thing since sliced bread,” he laughed.

“I remember we played a tournament at Cirencester; it must have been the smallest pitch and the smallest goals. I like a shot and I think I had 600 shots that day and only scored one goal!”

There clearly remains a competitive streak in Norton.

“It’s non-contact” he chuckled, “and if you do catch them they don’t like it!”

Other Images

Dave Norton, left, with Darren Bradley
Dave Norton on the ball for Birmingham Walking Football Club
Walking football is growing in popularity

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