Hemel Hempstead Town FC’s walking football team is the third best in the country – and that’s official.
The Tudors Over 50’s side learnt their new ranking after they won the South East of England regional final for the second year in a row and made it as far as the semi-final stage at the recent national finals, seeing off the much-fancied Man City along the way.
Despite the team’s best efforts, they were beaten by the eventual winners of the competition, Birmingham Pelé’s Pearls, who are People’s FA Cup Holders and current World Over 50’s Walking Football Cup champions.
In the group stages, Hemel beat north west champions, Manchester City, 1-0, before narrowly losing to the reigning competition holders and north east champions, Barnsley 10.
They beat the southern champions, Herne Bay, 2-0, to qualify for the National Semi Finals.
Dean Chance, Hemel FC secretary, paid tribute to the team’s efforts.
He commented: “Striker Jim Holmes led the way with all three of Hemel’s goals, two from well-worked free kicks, whilst keeper Tony Smith was outstanding, making numerous fine saves.
“The midfield trio of Mark Thompson, Nigel Morrison and Andy Turner worked tirelessly to both create chances and to graft hard in defence. At the back, Captain Mike Parkes marshalled the defence with Steve Hatchett solid and dominant with Dave Woolfrey as combative as ever.”
After setting up Walking Football 18 months ago, Hemel Hempstead Town FC now have two sides.
Steve Hatchett said he was delighted at the team’s performance over the last year and a half and at the national finals.
He said: “This has given everyone a whole new avenue – I think its one of the fastest growing sports in the country at the moment. Once we started going in the tournaments and winning them, we thought we were pretty good. Then it got more serious – I think we are punching well above our weight.”
Steve said the links between the walking football team and the Hemel first team are strong and revealed that last year, the team was coached by Jordan Parkes, then Hemel first team captain.
He said: “The Over 50s National Finals held at the University of Worcester brought together the 8 regional winners including sides such as Manchester City, Norwich City and the current FA People’s Cup winners Birmingham’s Peles Pearls who represented England in the recent WFA World Cup in June.
“Hemel progressed through the group stages even beating the much-fancied Manchester City with a goal by Jim Holmes and incredible defending to keep a clean sheet before going out at the semi-final stage.
“This was a massive achievement for Hemel Hempstead Town and I was proud to be a part of it. We realised the size of the tournament and it was a very pleasant surprise we got to this stage. Made old few boys very happy.”