A FORMER amateur footballer has recalled his heyday on the pitch almost 70 years ago, after attending an under-12s match near his Teesside care home.

John Kelly, 90, a resident at Briarwood Care Home, on Normanby Road, Eston, Middlesbrough, played for several North East teams during the 1950s.

He first laced up his football boots during his national service, with the Royal Engineers, before joining Whitby Town FC from 1954-55, where he was a centre forward.

John also had stints at Shildon AFC, Crook Town AFC, and Redcar Albion, before returning to Whitby to finish his playing days.

Despite offers from Chelsea and Middlesbrough FC, John chose not to play professionally as he was making more money working for chemicals producer ICI, one of the largest employers in the Tees Valley at the time.

Still a keen football fan, John was taken to watch Redcar Town Under-12 Blues versus Grangetown Boys by Briarwood Care Home carer Chelsea Buckton.

Chelsea’s son, Dylan, plays for Redcar Town, who lost 2-1 on the day.

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The Northern Echo: John Kelly playing for Whitby Town FC in 1954John Kelly playing for Whitby Town FC in 1954

John said: “During my army days, when I played, I used to let the Sergeant score. A happy sergeant meant a happy life.

“I loved watching the lads play. Pity they didn’t win. Maybe they’ll do better next time.”

John has previously taken a VIP tour of Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium alongside fellow residents at Briarwood Care Home – courtesy of the MFC Foundation.

Chelsea said: “It was so lovely to take John to watch the game and see how much he enjoyed it.

“He was commentating throughout the game to me, identifying when it was a free kick or thrown in. He also picked a man of the match – Charlie Clark.

“For those living with dementia, activities like this, which remind them of some of their happiest years, can be hugely therapeutic.

“They have benefits for their general health and wellbeing, helping to lift their mood, ease anxiety and stress, and are generally a lot of fun for everyone.

“John loved meeting the boys after the match, who were fascinated to hear about his days playing for Whitby Town FC. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend more matches together in future.”

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