Saturday saw Stevenage and Oxford United bring a new type of football to the Lamex Stadium in a cavalcade of celebration and whimsy. Aimed at the old and fat, walking football is the latest phenomenon to hit the streets. But never before has it been played by professional football teams in front of close to 3,500 people.
An end to end encounter – which saw 90% of the action focussed down one end – finished in a 5-1 win for the visitors.
However, the score line did not tell the whole story with one controversial incident standing out. Jamie McCombe – a veteran of walking football – was harshly adjudged to have come to a complete standstill and was immediately shown a straight red card. But for the referee’s intervention, Stevenage may well have conceded twice as many goals.
A further sending off occurred in the second half when Michael Tonge, growing increasingly frustrated at the fact that Oxford’s players were cheating by running around, lunged at one of his opponents. Even though the momentum of this challenge was officially measured at a snail’s pace, the referee had no hesitation in making a name for himself, and Tonge was straight off for an early bed bath.
Interviewed at full time, Teddy Sheringham praised the courage of his players and their ability to never break into a stride. “We’ve worked hard on this all week” he said. “In fact, we had to drop Dean Wells because he couldn’t understand the concept and would always come off the pitch sweating his bollocks off”.