Kedington man plays his final game of football in Haverhill on his 79th birthday
After racking up well in excess of 2,000 games of Friday night football in just short of half a century, the full-time whistle has now gone for a player from Kedington – on his 79th birthday.
Peter Philbin, who lives in Hundon Road in the village, was given a guard of honour by his team mates and opponents as he walked on to the 3G pitch at the New Croft, in Haverhill, last Friday for his final seven-a-side game with his team, Haverhill Hotspurs.
Peter said he had only been playing at the New Croft for the past four or five years, but he began his journey in small-sided football at Haverhill Leisure Centre in 1973, just a couple of years after the centre had opened.
He had been invited to play in what were then indoor five-a-side matches on Friday nights, by two friends – Neil Lanham and Clive Fowler.
Apart from some time out with a broken leg – suffered in what Peter jokingly described as ‘an agricultural tackle by a farmer’ – he has continued to play largely injury free and in all weathers over the 49 years.
But what has kept him playing for so long?
“One, for regular exercise, “said Peter, a Chelsea supporter, “two, because I enjoy the game and three because of the camaraderie that you get with a team of regular players, all the mickey taking etc.”
The decision to to stop playing was taken not because of his age, said Peter, but because of an injury.
“It was a knee injury really. I’ve had it for some time and I thought I would be able to shake it off but it’s my left knee and I’m a left footed player. I used to get all sorts of aches and pains.
“I was rather hoping to finish at the end of the season but I realised it would probably be in my best interests to stop, and because it was my birthday I thought that was the best time to stop.”
After the match, the players went for a meal together at the Raj Mahal, in Haverhill, leaving Peter to declare: “It was a good ending.”
To commemorate his last match (although he plans to go to watch his friends play ‘from time to time’ ), Peter was presented with a replica ball signed by the other players and a golden boot, with the words ‘Friday football players’ player award. Happy retirement’.