Grass Roots: Bob Armitage, 73, celebrates 50 years in local football - and has no plans to hang up his boots just yet!

Ecclesfield Real Vets' 73 year old, Bob Armitage
Ecclesfield Real Vets' 73 year old, Bob Armitage

Left-back legend Bob Armitage likes to think of himself as the ‘Roberto Carlos of Sheffield’s Wragg Over-45 League’.

But unlike his Brazilian hero, who hung up his boots two years ago to concentrate on coaching, Bob is still patrolling the pitches of Sheffield - at the grand old age of 73!

Bob, who began his footballing adventure aged 17, was recently honoured for his service with a medal, for ‘outstanding contribution to the game at grassroots level’.

Bob, who is also secretary of his current club, Real Vets, was presented with his honour at Rotherham’s New York Stadium by County FA chairman Brain Jones and Stuart Topham, general secretary and chairman of the Wragg League, pictured above.

Bob, of Church Street in Ecclesfield, was nominated for the award by Stuart after playing for numerous Sheffield teams in various local leagues.

And last weekend, he was back where he belonged at left back, as Real Vets registered a 4-2 victory over Sheffield Aurora in Division B of the Wragg Over-45 League.

“When I first started, I used to have a thought of playing when I was an old man - and here I am,” Bob told Grass Roots.

“It’s really quite extraordinary. It was a lovely surprise to get the award and it was the culmination of a lot of hard work over the years, and a pure love for the game.

“I especially want to thank the Wragg League because they have magnificently supported the biggest league in Sheffield for all these years.

“They put in so much work each season and it is because of their set up that has enabled me to play for so long.”

“And of course, I need to thank all my team mates over the years,” he added.

“There have been so many because everybody that I started playing with has either hung up their boots, or died!

“You have to laugh at these things though, or you’ll cry.”

Bob’s extremely colourful and varied career included an 11-year spell at the English Steel football team, which was the biggest employer in Sheffield at the time.

The locally-born legend also coached Acheson Juniors’ under 10s-13s for a period after joining in 1979, whilst acting as the secretary and treasurer of the club.

Bob then returned to playing after a five- year break, due to back problems, in 1989, with the now named ‘Real Vets’ - who won a competition organised by E.ON in 2008, to find the UK’s oldest 11 registered players.

The side, previously named ‘Real Princess’, ‘Real Arundel’ and ‘Ecclesfield White Bear’, have played their home fixtures at various locations across Sheffield, before settling at their current home at Chaucer School, Parson Cross.

“I have pretty much seen and done everything in the local game but I will hang up my boots with ‘Real Vets’, Bob, unsurprisingly the current oldest registered player in the league, said.

“We named the team after Real Madrid of course, and we joke that we’ve never been quite as wealthy or played as well but we’ve come close to the Spanish giants.

“The avaerage age of the team at the moment is about 50 and opponets are amazed because I’m still playing, and can last a full 90 minutes at a push.

“But because I’m now part of the furniture everyone in the league remembers and recognises me. They always encourage me to keep going.”

Bob’s time at Real Vets has seen him play the roles of secretary, treasurer, player and kit man - and has no intention of retiring just yet.

“I just want to keep going,” Bob, the chairman of Rotherham company Alusec UK, added.

“Everyone always says ‘don’t hang your boots up - keep going’. So for now, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“My highlight has to be in the second season (with the then Real Arundel) when we came second in the league and got promotion.

“But football is a funny game and I do consider the future every week when we lose!

“But when we win I think ‘Oh no, I’ll carry on’.”

Real Vets suffered four defeats on the bounce at the start of this season but turned it around last weekend against Aurora, who they will face again this weekend.

“The last few years have been difficult for us as we haven’t done that well,” he explained.

“Just this year we were questioning whether to carry on with the team but there was no way I was going to let it just fold.

“We have all pulled together and, after the last result, hopefully we can do the double over the side this weekend.

“I still love playing and I see myself like a Roberto Carlos running up from defence, although sadly I don’t have the same finish!

“As long as I can kick a ball I will keep playing, and it’s a wonderful thing to still be able to walk onto the pitch every weekend.”

n Bob is currently looking to organise a reunion with former players from the English Steel football team (which he was part of from 1962-1973.) For more details call 07973 695352, or email