England call-up for veteran Melton goalkeeper in landmark match
A goalkeeper who began his international career long after the age most footballers hang up their boots will wear the Three Lions in a landmark match next week.
Adrian Stannard will go between the sticks for England Over 65s in their first-ever international against Wales at Dragon Park next Thursday.
The 65-year-old grandfather-of-two will line up alongside former professionals in an England side headed by 74-year-old John Shannon. Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher will officiate.
The retired businessman became involved in the England veterans scene with the over 55s in 2008, making his debut at 56 against Wales.
Progressing up the age brackets into the over 60s side, Stannard believes he has now played more than 20 times for his country.
Many of the appearances have been alongside his close friend Barry Suggett, a team-mate from his Melton playing days.
“For Barry and I to be still playing at this age is wonderful, but to be pulling on an England shirt is amazing,” he said.
“I’ve missed a couple of games through injury and holidays, but I think I have played more minutes than anyone else.”
Stannard, who has played at Wembley Stadium, the Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff, and St George’s Park as a veteran, uses football chiefly to maintain his fitness.
This regime repaid him last month when he played in a match just three-and-a-half weeks after a double hernia operation.
He added: “I went to see the surgeon afterwards and he asked me when my next match was and I told him it was Saturday. He said ‘are you insane?’
“But Kasper Schmeichel was in training three days after a hernia operation!”
It’s approaching 50 years since Stannard first played competitive football as a 16-year-old in the Notts Youth League, and despite the odd brief sabbatical, he is still on good terms with the beautiful game.
After moving to the area from his native Nottingham in 1980, he was persuaded to turn out for Melton Town and Pedigree Petfoods, and briefly at Holwell Sports.
“I played a few games for Holwell when Paul Humphreys broke his leg; I was 42 at the time,” he said.
“I then made my debut for Anstey Nomads at the age of 45 as part of their new youth policy.
“I never really wanted to play full-time. I wanted to get my qualifications in engineering and have a career because in football your destiny isn’t in your own hands.”
At club level, Stannard still turns out for Cottesmore Over 35s in the Peterborough Vets League, but played a Leics Combination match at the age of 64, for Cottesmore Amateurs Reserves, and was man-of-the-match.
“In over 35s it’s a lot easier,” he added. “It’s not as quick and they don’t strike the ball as hard.
“When you’ve been married longer than some of the players have been alive, it’s tough.
“Football has been good to me; I have met so many people and got lots of memories.”