“I’ve long since accepted that I won’t ever play for England, but if the veterans’ team is short, I’d definitely turn out.” So says Tim Polding, a partner in Liverpool firm Lees Lloyd Whitley and football fanatic. Polding is not alluding to a hitherto unheralded England Veterans’ collective, but to the over 35s team put out each Saturday by one of the oldest amateur football clubs in England, Chester Nomads.
“I joined the Nomads after law college,” says Polding, now 41 and a specialist in corporate law. “The club has a venerable tradition and I count myself as fortunate to have played for them for 13 years. I officially hung up my boots a couple of years ago but if asked to play I wouldn’t be able to resist.”
Polding remains integrally involved in the Nomads. “I help with the running and coaching of the kids’ teams,” he says, adding that his son is on the Nomads’ books. “I might not have been able to play for my country or my favourite club but you never know, my son might make it.”
Polding’s club is Manchester United, an affiliation which has caused more than a little banter over the years given his firm’s base in Liverpool. “Most of my colleagues support the club traditionally seen as United’s arch-rivals and back in the 80s, when Liverpool was winning everything, I came in for a lot of stick. The tables have turned a bit in recent years but the great thing about Liverpool is that it’s a football city. Everyone has an opinion about the weekend’s games.”
Chester Nomads are cut from a different cloth to the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. The club was loosely formed in 1902 and had an established fixture list by 1904, but were without a ground. The nomadic appellation was appended then and survives to the present day, despite the Nomads at last acquiring their own ground in 1988. The club prides itself on fielding eight teams every Saturday that play – in a strip similar to that of Wolverhampton Wanderers - all over Cheshire, North Wales and Merseyside. “The standard is probably a division below semi-pro,” says Polding.
Football, at whatever level, has been Polding’s life. “I was born about 10 miles from Old Trafford and if not playing would be watching United whenever I could. I saw my first game in 1973. It was Bobby Charlton’s testimonial and I was hooked from then on.” As a striker Polding played for Liverpool University and the College of Law in Chester, and cites a broken foot in his teenage years as having helped his football prowess: “I broke my right foot when I was 16 and couldn’t kick a ball properly with it for ages. Having to use my left foot all the time then gave me two good feet as an adult player.”
His right foot scored his most memorable goal – a volley from inside his own half – but team spirit rather than individual glory was what motivated Polding to pursue amateur football. “I’ve always loved the camaraderie of team sports. A great sense of purpose is fostered by being part of a team and you learn a tremendous amount if you’re fortunate enough, as I was, to captain teams as well. The social side is as important as the competitive element and the fitness. You meet people from all walks of life and learn skills that can be applied to your day-to-day existence.”
Was football ever a release from the pressures of legal practice? Polding does not hesitate. “Absolutely” he says. He is just as quick off the mark when asked if he agreed with Bill Shankley’s famous dictum about football being more important than life and death.
“It’s more important than law, that’s for sure.”