Meet Britain's oldest international footballer - a grandfather who missed trials for Arsenal aged 14 because he had no boots

Meet Britain's oldest international footballer - an 82-year-old grandfather who missed trials for Arsenal aged 14 because he had no boots. Steve Marriott has played regularly in amateur teams for decades but thought his dreams of representing his country were well and truly over. Especially when he was diagnosed with stage three skin cancer in 2018. But after undergoing seven operations, the midfielder took up walking football. Having shone for his local side in Clevedon, North Somerset, he was given the opportunity to represent the South West regional side. From there, he earned his first international cap in 2022 playing for England over 75’s in a 1-1 draw against Wales. The retired magistrate is still in the England international team and isn’t planning on retiring any time soon. He battles it out on the pitch twice a week for local side Clevedon Town Walking Football Club. Steve, from Portishead, said: “I’ve just bought a new pair of Adidas boots, so I won’t be hanging them up quite yet. “I will keep playing for as long as I can.” Despite the team’s seniority, Steve said the standard is still high. “People think it’s just a bunch of old codgers, but it’s far more difficult and skilful than people realise,” he said. “There’s one young fella who suffers from dementia, but when he’s got the ball he’s a pleasure to watch - his skills are incredible.” Each training session is an hour and a half, while matches are played in six or seven man teams battling it out for up to 20 minutes each half. Although he is the oldest player in the team, Steve isn’t averse to showing off his own skills with the ball at his feet. “When I’m at training, I get the mickey taken out for me for doing stepovers - I was doing them before Ronaldo. "Mind you, he’s a bit better looking than me." And despite all their years of experience, the competition remains as fierce as ever. “Someone was sent off last week for giving back-chat to the ref,” he said. Born in Hackney, north east London, Steve has played football for nearly 70 years. Over the course of his career, he estimates he has played over 1,000 games and scored more than 400 goals. Steve, who plays in the midfield, says the beautiful game was quite different when he started out. “When I was young you didn’t do a warm up for football,” he said. "I can remember my mates having a drop of whisky and a cigarette at half time.” The pitches were “mud pits” and he said the balls were much heavier. “One of my early memories is heading an old-fashioned leather football on the half way line and the crowd giving me a round of applause," he said. "The balls were so heavy back then that it was an act of foolish bravery.” When Steve was invited for trials with Arsenal aged 14, he was too embarrassed to go as he didn’t own a pair of modern boots. “I had a pair of old-fashioned football boots where you actually hammered the studs into the sole,” he said. “I was so ashamed of them that when I was invited for my trial, I didn’t go.” Steve also remembers the game being much rougher in his younger years. “We always had a hard man in our team. If anybody got you, he got them. It was like a battle,” he said. “We used to plan all week who we were going to get. if there were three of us in midfield we would copy the Italians and take it in turn fouling them. “The old saying was, ‘you never get booked with the first challenge of the game’ - the trouble was I was sometimes on the receiving end. "We didn't have shin pads, so we used to roll up a comic book and stick it down our shins. I don't think it helped much, but you just accepted the pain. “You always got someone saying they were going to break your legs, but it gave me the extra yard of speed I needed.” Steve’s love of football has also passed down to his children. Both of his sons, aged 50 and 55, help to run amateur teams. And his 11-year-old granddaughter, Eva, also plays. “Eva’s like lightning - I don't get a chance to show her my skills,” he said. The grandfather-of-two has been married for 57 years and says his wife, Jan, is very supportive of his hobby. He said: “Throughout her life she’s always said, ‘I can compete with his gambling and his drinking, but I cannot compete with football'. “Playing football is my secret to living a long and healthy life. “A couple years previous I was told I had stage three cancer. “I did think, oh well, the time has come. "Then the following year, I discovered walking football. “All of a sudden for this to happen, it was like a rebirth. “Walking football really helped me mentally as well as physically after my diagnosis. We all have a cup of tea and a biscuit after a game - the camaraderie is fantastic.” Steve still has one final cancer operation scheduled for April and hopes he will then be disease-free.