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Sutton Valence veteran Paul Linaker still loves playing hockey as he approaches his 80th birthday

By Craig Tucker

Hockey player Paul Linaker is still going strong as he closes in on his 80th birthday.

Linaker, who plays right-wing for Sutton Valence veterans, loves the game as much as ever and has no plans to retire.

He hits the milestone on February 17 but has received an early birthday present – a No.80 shirt.

Sutton Valence's Paul Linaker is still playing with his 80th birthday on the horizon Picture: Andy Jones

Linaker said: “I’m not sure if it’s a milestone or a millstone! Time will tell.

“It feels fine to be playing at my age. You don’t feel the years advancing as much as the people around you may think. You kid yourself you’re as young as you feel you are.

“You don’t really notice the years but, of course, if someone had said to me when I started playing, would I still be playing at 80, I would have said no.”

Linaker started playing hockey in his 20s, joining his local club, Huddersfield, in Yorkshire.

A new job brought him down to Kent 29 years ago and he joined Sutton Valence a year later. As well as playing, he’s been chairman, vice-chairman and fixtures secretary at Valence. But it’s out on the pitch where he’s happiest.

He said: “I’ve never played really competitive league hockey, which I think is what wears people out.

“The level I’ve played at has always been fun. That may be one of the reasons why I’m still going. It’s such a pleasant sport in that you can play it for so long.

“Rugby you couldn’t, nor football, but hockey’s a non-contact sport, although there are occasions when you bump into people.

“The vets team are all great guys and it’s nice to get to the pub after games. We’re still competitive but it’s fun.”

Linaker wore his new shirt for the first time in the vets’ 1-1 draw with Canterbury and intends to get plenty of use out of it.

The Sutton Valence veterans, with Paul back row, sixth from left Picture: Andy Jones

He said: “What I did say at the club was that I was touched by their generosity and spirit in giving me the shirt but watch out, that might now mean I have to play somewhat longer to get the wear out of it!

“I’m one of those people who feels that, as long as you can, do. I take health walks and I like to get on and do things.

“Sutton Valence are a friendly club and I’ve enjoyed playing for them.”

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