A group of East Devon footballers footballers who take to the pitch every week in Ottery St Mary are most certainly on the ‘planning to never grow old’ list.
It’s highly likely that players of a particular age across East Devon and Exeter will have heard of the ‘Golden Boys’ and someone who is involved with them.
They are a set of former footballers who have been coming together each week for more than three decades.
Prior to the lockdown, they had continued to meet up each Thursday evening.
You will not find any of them playing in a league, indeed, they gather for just one 11-a-side ‘official’ match each season.
The group was launched some 31 years ago by a group of sixth formers from The King’s School, in Ottery St Mary, led by Anthony Griffiths and Kevin Sexton. Both are still regular players.
Back in the early days, numbers were dwindling and the very existence of the Thursday group was in doubt.
However, it was through various conversations during that particular year’s cricket season that the concept was further pushed.
Jimmy Giles – a legend to this day of all things Exeter City Football Club – was among the cricketing folk who came to hear of the group.
He went along to a Thursday night gathering – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Such was the enjoyment and the standard, it was deemed ideal for higher ability players returning from injury.
Word soon spread, the opportunity to play to a decent standard without over-enthusiastic foul play was a great attraction, and numbers grew.
Following Jimmy [Giles], other former City players such as Frankie Prince, Alan Banks, Scott Hiley and Phil Roberts graced the Colin Tooze artificial surface in Ottery.
More recently, local talent such as Gary Carpenter, Mike Napper, Roger Trivett, and Simon Hudson are still to be found demonstrating their silky skills on a weekly basis.
The group is now mainly comprised of ex-players from Ottery, Sidmouth, Feniton and Sidbury.
In addition, Ottery’s local optician, mortgage advisor, landlord, former post office manager and window cleaner are all among the elite group of finely-tuned sportsmen.
Longevity has meant that the group now have fathers and sons playing alongside or against each other – Ken and Ian Mortimer, Rob and Mark Perryman.
The Devine and Badcock brothers are also regular attendees.
Make no mistake, this is no ‘tin-pot’ outfit and not anyone can join.
Criteria have to be met!
- You must be over the age of 35.
- You must be able to play, or have played, to a decent level of football.
- You must pass a successful interview with the infamous selection committee comprising of Ken Mortimer, Jay Thorne, Scott Gibbins, Robin Perryman and Kevin Tooze.
With a pool of about 30 players, this really has become a band of brothers.
The turnout each week ranges from 16 to 26 with injuries and television being the main reason for absence.
If you miss three consecutive weeks, you face disciplinary measures or even risk being replaced by one of the many people on the waiting list.
Not content with a weekly game of football, the ‘Golden Boys’ have developed to such a degree that each week they have a post-match nutritionist.
Mike Down, from the Volunteer Inn, provides wonderful food and substantial rehydration.
The last five years have seen an Easter tour with the Golden Boys venturing further afield to Jersey to play a St Helier-based side.
The 2019 tour saw more than 20 of the group travelling and was topped off with a fine 4-0 victory with two goals coming from man of the match Perryman Jnr.
Unfortunately, this year’s trip was cancelled, but event organiser Scott Gibbins is already making plans for the next one.
The Golden Boys truly are a unique group of players who continue to thrive.
For many involved, the Thursday night exercise is now part of their way of life.
Testament to its success, Jimmy still often comes to spectate, as do some of the injured players.
The attraction of the football, personalities and the banter means the football will continue long into the future.