After coming so close to being the first team to win The FA People’s Cup walking football title, Croydon Casuals stalwart Ian Clarke is hoping to go one better in 2016.
Clarke and his team-mates were beaten on penalties by Codnor in the Final in Manchester last May, a result which still rankles with the Surrey-based outfit.
But with registration for the 2016 People’s Cup, in partnership with BBC Get Inspired, now open, Clarke says they’ll be back again next year and aiming for the title.
The FA People's Cup
Registration open: Monday 23 November 2015
First Round: 22-24 January 2016
Categories: Adult Male, Adult Female, U16 Boys, U16 Girls, U14 Boys, U14 Girls, Male Veterans, Female Veterans, Walking Football (Over 50s & mixed), Disability
Click here to find a local heat and register
"We’ll definitely be putting a team out, and trying to go one better," Clarke told TheFA.com.
"We were really keen last season because being the inaugural FA People’s Cup in walking football we wanted to win it.
"We can still put a decent side out, we’ve done well in the Walking Football National Cup competition so we fancy our chances, even though we’re all getting that one year older!
"Everyone enjoys it though and whilst we were disappointed to lose on penalties in the Final, it was great just to be in the grand final of a national competition.
"But the main disappointment was to lose the national final of the first-ever FA People’s Cup, because Codnor will always go down in history as the first team to win the trophy - and it was on penalties!"
However, Clarke expects this season’s Cup will prove even tougher to conquer, given the rising popularity of walking football in the last six months.
With the game restricted to those over the age of 50, it’s a growing format of the sport which doesn’t surprise Clarke in the slightest.
He’s been involved in walking football since 2013 after seeing a feature on the BBC and deciding to get involved locally.
Since then, he’s helped form the Casuals and been involved in numerous competitions as well thoroughly enjoying the social side of the game.
And even though it might make their road to potential People’s Cup glory a little bit tougher, he’s pleased to see the game starting to flourish.
"I think there’ll be a lot of interest and I hope there are a lot more teams this year," he admitted.
"We’ll fancy our chances and we’ll still have a point to prove against some stronger teams.
"But it’s just a great way to play football, once you get the guys over the stigma of walking football, we get 15 or 25 people turning up and it’s a good cardio-vascular exercise.
"It gets people up and out of their chairs and there’s a social side to it, we sit and have a coffee afterwards and we’re all having a Christmas get-together.
"For some guys, it’s not just the football, it’s a bit of a giggle and about the interaction.
"Once you start playing, it’s like golf, you’re hooked and a lot of us say that we never thought we’d get the chance to do this again."
Fancy your chances in The FA People’s Cup? Whether it’s in walking football or any of the other nine categories available, you can register your team now.
And if you don’t have a team, why not sign up anyway and take advantage of our team building days in the new year?