For most people, requiring a double knee replacement may well spell the end of their footballing career.
Not for Bruce Brockett.
The 52-year-old is revelling in his rediscovered love of the game, having joined the North Lanarkshire Walking Football programme at Broadwood. Until finding out about the initiative, though, Brockett admits that he thought his playing days were behind him.
“I’ve been involved in football all my life” he said.
“I’d been lucky enough to play at quite a high amateur level, but I wore my knees down so much by the time that I was 32 that I had to take a step back. I needed two knee replacements, so obviously thought that was that really.”
However, it was seeing walking football featured in an advert that led Brockett to lace up his boots once more and get back involved with the grassroots game.
“I’d seen an advert for Barclays Walking Football down in England, did a wee bit of looking into it and found out about the group in North Lanarkshire” he said.
“From day one, I fell in love with it – it’s your typical football dressing room with a brilliant bunch of guys.”
With around 40 players involved in the programme, it’s fair to say that Walking Football has been enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity in the four years since the programme’s inception at Broadwood. This popularity hit a new peak earlier this year, when the North Lanarkshire team was selected to represent Scotland at this summer’s Home Nations – a tournament that they went on to win.
“It’s been a massive success” said Nicky Laughlin, Sports Development Officer with North Lanarkshire Leisure.
“It gives older adults the opportunity to take part in the game they love along with various health and social benefits. Our group regularly socialise outwith the sessions, which reduces isolation. This has, in turn, become a feature throughout the local communities and led to regular new players coming, contributing to the continued growth of the programme.”
This growth is not something that Laughlin envisages stopping any time soon, as the sport continues to flourish across the country.
“North Lanarkshire Leisure has set up a national league, which has been running for two years now” said Laughlin.
“Each month, 12 teams from across Scotland come to Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility to play against each other, with the league running for six months.
“I see walking football growing in terms of the number of sessions in our area, having regional leagues and a national team.
“As a result, we have been able to receive funding to continue to grow and develop walking football in our area.”
For Brockett, though, the priority remains the same as it has always been – getting involved for the love of the game, one of the key tenets of UEFA Grassroots Week. So what would his advice be to any potential new recruits to the Walking Football programme?
“I’d say come along to a session and just meet some of the guys” he said.
“Even if you don’t want to play in the first few games, stand on the touchline and then come in for a cup of tea afterwards.
“Honestly, once you meet some of the guys there – one of my pals came along for the first time recently, and I met up with him afterwards to see how he’d found it.
“The first thing he said to me was “don’t worry Bruce, I’ll be there next week!’”