MARTIN WOOF might be in his late 50s but he has just realised a boyhood dream after pulling on a York City shirt and representing the club in a national tournament.

A fan for more than half-a-century, who has only missed one league game at Bootham Crescent in 31 years, Woof was thrilled to be a member of the Minstermen's walking football team that played in the recent English finals at the FA's prestigious St George's Park training centre in Burton.

Despite only making the bench for his school team and playing for just a couple of seasons with Tockwith in his mid-20s, Woof is back enjoying the game he loves at an age that has, traditionally, seen men and women turn to the likes of bowls, billiards and dominoes for a competitive sporting fix.

City's over-50 team qualified for St George's after finishing runners-up on the golden goal rule to a Leeds United side in their regional qualifier at Doncaster Rovers' Keepmoat Stadium.

Earlier, the Minstermen's six-a-side representatives had swept aside another Leeds team (3-0) and enjoyed further victories over Middlesbrough (3-0) and Sheffield Wednesday (2-0) to top their group.

At Burton, meanwhile, the team were narrowly beaten 1-0 by eventual champions Plymouth and drew with Norwich (1-1) and Swindon (0-0).

A 3-0 defeat by overall runners-up Blackpool meant elimination at the group stages but Woof and his team-mates still enjoyed the privilege of playing at a venue where the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere and Harry Kane are put through their paces.

"For me, as a York City fan, it was a fantastic experience to put on the strip and play in a national tournament," Woof enthused. "It's something you dream about doing as kid, but never think will be possible - a bit like watching the club play at Wembley.

"York City were also fantastic as a club. They gave us a free minibus and a driver and we got to St George's in plenty of time to have a look around and it's a terrific set-up."

Walking football is one of the biggest-growing sports in the country with the Monday morning session, run by York City's Foundation at Burnholme Community Sports Hub, now attracting more than 20 men and women, aged between 50 to 79, every week.

Living in Scarborough, Woof has been a member for the last two years of a walking football team in the seaside town that meets two to three times a week and boasts 50 members.

Amongst his fellow players, two have Parkinson's and one MS, with Woof adding: "Walking football is very inclusive and open to people of all abilities.

"We've seen everybody's fitness and football skills improve and it's a great way for people over 50 to stay fit and active. You can see the benefits in terms of physical and mental well-being and the camaraderie within the group is great with new friendships being forged all the time.

"There's no running or excessive physical contact allowed and, although you can tackle, anything deemed too aggressive leads to a free kick. Because you can't run, that also encourages you to play on the floor, so the skill level tends to be high.

"I thought it would be a bit tame for me, because I've always been very active, but it wasn't and you feel that you've done a decent workout at the end of a session. It's very sociable, but still quite competitive too and growing bigger and bigger with so many tournaments now taking place across the country.

"Since my mid-20s, the only football I had played was in York City's annual Keith Walwyn six-a-side tournament until the opposition got younger and faster and so many guys, who thought their playing days were over maybe 30 years ago, can now take up the game again, which is great."

Former professionals are also digging their boots out again with the Doncaster heat featuring ex-Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds and Charlton striker John Pearson, who is now 52.

"He didn't look 50 and we watched him score a hat-trick for Sheffield Wednesday before we played against them," Woof said. "But we man-marked him in our game and it was great to be up against a former pro.

"It was even better when we beat them 2-0 and he subbed himself off!"

It doesn't get much better for Woof than tasting victory in City colours.

Since the opening fixture of the 1984/85 campaign, when Keith Walywn scored in a 1-1 draw against Walsall on the City fanatic's wedding day, the only league game he has missed at his second home was the 2013/14 curtain raiser against Northampton when his brother's wedding meant the family had to rearrange the timing of their annual summer holiday.

"It was a 50-50 chance that City would be away but the computer let me down," he grimaced. "I started watching the club at the age of seven in 1963 and Barry Jackson was one of my first heroes.

"He used to own the sweet shop near the ground and I'd always go in there to see him and buy some Polos but I was always too shy to talk to him."

Anybody, aged 50 or over, wishing to emulate Woof and represent City at walking football tournaments is encouraged to attend the Monday sessions at Burnholme from 10am to 11am.

Sessions cost £5 with an equal number of men and women participating.

The club are hoping to form a ladies' team and are also gauging interest for evening sessions in October.

For further information, please email or phone 01904 559508.