Stars of the walking game: Spencer Robinson – character, charisma and still competitive at 78…
Watching Spencer Robinson turn up to walking football each week – at Burnham in Bucks – is a sight to behold.
Now 78 years old, Spencer arrives in his car with the latest hits blaring from the car radio. And when he finally emerges from the vehicle, he does so through a plume of smoke and from behind a large cigar. We have no doubt that you will not see a grander entrance to a walking football session anywhere in the UK.
When matched with his endless positivity and excitement you do truly begin to wonder if Spencer, a wonderfully ‘bigger than life’ character with seemingly limitless energy, is on ‘something’ but very quickly you realise that he’s ‘running’ on his high-octane love of our game (and the fact he can definitely give his walking football session mates more than a run for their money at 78!).
Sitting down with the man himself, you certainly get an immediate sense of Spencer’s endless youthful enthusiasm, boundless positivity and sense of endeavour.
He has spent a lifetime in sport playing football, cricket, golf and badminton, and even boxed for the RAF. Growing up as a die-hard Spurs fan, his idol was the great Jimmy Greaves.
And that talent and love for sport promises to keep Spencer going well into his 80s because, despite occasionally getting cramps following sessions, he has vowed to keep on playing walking football for as long as he physically can.
“I’ll keep on going until I drop,” he smiled. “I enjoy it so much. The sessions are competitive but nobody’s diving into tackles or anything like that. We’ve got people of all standards at our sessions, but everyone chips in with goals and has a great time.
“I love how much you see of the ball and the fact that you play on a small pitch. I just find it so enjoyable and I’m so glad I signed up.”
On the one hand, you get the feeling the walking football helps to keep Spencer young, while on the other that his jokes and youthful spirit aids others in helping to stay in touch with their own inner teenagers.
What’s certain is that the sport is helping to keep him fit, healthy, and active well into his retirement – as well as helping him to maintain a very active friendship group.
“I saw it advertised on the telly and thought it was right up my street,” he explained. “I went down for my first session, really enjoyed it, and haven’t looked back since.”
You get the impression that it would have always been Spencer’s plan to stay in sport for as long as possible.
He talks with pride about how in his younger days he boxed on behalf of the RAF, knocking out people far bigger than himself, and defeating a Scottish champion.
“It all started because I had to write the sports down that I had an interest in when I joined the RAF in 1958,” he said.
“I put down boxing and so they entered me into a competition. I ended up in the ring with a guy who was much heavier than me but I knocked him out – after that they kept on putting me forward for more competitions!
I ended up boxing more than I was working during that period. At the end of it they told me I would have to complete my training because I was eight weeks past the usual time they have allocated for you to complete everything.”
Boxing is most definitely a young man’s game however, and one that even the very best can continue to compete in for only a limited time.
Badminton, squash, cricket, golf and football have all offered longer-term opportunities – but football is where his heart truly lies – and the one that he stuck with the longest having started at the age of just nine.
Two Surrey Cup wins are among his early achievements and you get the impression that – although he now plays football purely for fun – he would love to add a further medal or two to his collection should the opportunity arise.
Happily, Spencer – who has been married to Mrs R for 57 years – has passed down his talent for sport through the family – and it has been known for all three generations to get together and play cricket.
Perhaps one day the other generations of his family will join him on the walking football pitch – a distinct possibility since he has become such an advocate of the sport.
“I’m so glad I signed up, I think everyone should try it,” he considered. “After all, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go!”