Football is still a way of life for Frankie

There’s very little that prunes the enthusiasm of Frankie Banks.

A stalwart with Southend United and Hull City spanning the best part of two decades including 85 appearances for the Shrimpers either side of a further 335 starts during a successful stint with the Tigers.

Since hanging up his boots in 1978, the right-sided full-back has quite literally taken on the role of chief cook and bottle washer with the Roots Hall Stadium outfit, from managing the reserve and youth teams through to important community work with the Supporters Trust.

“My passion – and I’ve grown up with it since being a kid – is football,” the 75-year-old told Yellow Sport.

But far from putting his feet up and taking it easy, Frank is never far away from a football, assisting with Shrimpers Trust’s walking football sessions which alongside their Garon Park counterparts were becoming popular and well attended before lockdown.

“When you come out of veterans football, there is life after that,” Frank enthused.

“I retired in 2009 but I still do works for the SUCET voluntarily with their seniors and one or two other things we do. For example, if you come over to Garon on a Monday, I’ve got a few of them playing golf. So it’s not just walking football.

“It started with me doing some sessions at Futures and then the Len Forge Centre before arriving at Garon Park.”

Frank remains a popular and well-known figure in the community, often associated with solely with Southend United, despite subsequent associations with Great Wakering Rovers and Purfleet.

It’s clear to see the game, in whatever form, is still very special to him and he is keen for some of that enthusiasm to rub off on his walking footballers.

“Football to me has been a way of life and I enjoy the social side of it,” he explained.

“For older people playing walking football, it is a social thing for them.

“I keep getting Whatsapp messages from the guys asking when can we start playing again? We need to get back! Because for them, it’s a big social thing. They look forward to it.

“That is all a part of it. Part of being in a team. You’ve got your teammates – you help each other out. I think it’s the banter that makes it. That was what I missed a hell of a lot. I’m certainly missing it now, what with this COVID.

“The boys would come back tomorrow if they could, but we can’t.”

But Frank enjoys the weekly sessions himself and is even tempted to play competitively with the Garon Park club once life returns to some sort of normality

“Of course, I enjoy it, I do, of course! It’s in my blood.

“It’s putting something back. I like being involved in it, I like the banter. We all give it and take it – it’s fun – I haven’t got a problem with that. When you stop playing, you miss that.

“I’m going to try to play, lets put it that way. I’ve had a knee replacement. I’m gonna have a go. I just come alive when there is a ball around.

“I went over to Priory Park a while back. Some kids were having a kickabout, taking penalties. I went over and said; “Look, let me just show you how to take a penalty.” – My daughter was with me: “You come alive, dad,” she said. And I do.”

And Frank was quick to point out that the will to win, installed during his career in the professional game, is still very much alive and kicking: “Oh yes! When you have played at the level I’ve played at. It’s like anything. If I play golf, tennis, tiddlywinks – I want to win.

“I played Monopoly with the family over Christmas. I wanted to win – I didn’t win. People talk about being a good loser and that if you lose, you lose. But I don’t like losing.”

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]