John Wark fondly recalls 1980 hat-trick against Norwich - what’s your favourite sporting memory?

The launch of Sporting Memories Network Suffolk. Left to right, Tony Jameson-Allen, Tony Goldson, Jo

The launch of Sporting Memories Network Suffolk. Left to right, Tony Jameson-Allen, Tony Goldson, John Wark and Bill Tancred MBE. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Former Ipswich Town football star John Wark has backed a new project launched in Suffolk which will use sport to tackle loneliness, depression and poor health among older people.

John Wark scores against Norwich in 1980. Picture: ARCHANT

John Wark scores against Norwich in 1980. Picture: ARCHANT

The county has become the latest to join the Sporting Memories Network, which will establish free, volunteer-led sessions for over 50s to get together, share memories of watching or playing sport and engage in accessible physical activities.

The weekly groups will take place in a variety of venues across the county, starting from the end of the September, including libraries, community centres and sports grounds, and will have sporting memorabilia on display, such as newspaper clippings, films, trophies and match programmes, in a bid to take people back to a time they may have forgotten.

The sessions will be especially beneficial for people who suffer from conditions that affect memory, such as dementia.

During a launch event at Quay Place in Ipswich today, John shared his favourite sporting memory with the guests: scoring a hat-trick during Town’s match against Norwich in the 1979-80 season, helping to secure the Blues a 4-2 win. “I will never forget it,” he said.

Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health, said the East of England had the fastest aging population than anywhere else in the country.

“There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating the benefits of reminiscence for older people, not just those experiencing dementia but also low mood, anxiety and depression,” he added.

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“Sport and sporting events of the past are a wonderful catalyst for sparking memories and tapping into the passion and the love of sport that large numbers of the community have. We are therefore delighted to be working with The Sporting Memories Network to establish sporting memories groups in Suffolk.”

Mr Goldson said this project was a positive step towards achieving the council’s ambition of becoming England’s most active county.

According to Richard Hunt, coordinator of Suffolk’s Sporting Memories Network, 65,000 people across the county currently live on their own, and by 2039, one in three people in Suffolk will be over the age of 65.

He added: “We know from the research that rural isolation is a big factor in affecting your wellbeing and mental health.

“It’s a particular problem for males, who may not find it as easy to connect and get together in groups, but this is a great way of doing that.”

Tony Jameson-Allen, co-founder of Sporting Memories Network said: “So many great memories and stories will doubtless come from the groups, as well as many friendships being made. There is always a lot of humour, the sessions are great fun for any older sports fan.

“Staying active, both mentally and physically, as well as connected to people and interests is crucial to ageing well.”

The launch event was also attended by double Olympian and Commonwealth Games medallist, Bill Tancred MBE.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities or attending a group, contact Richard Hunt on 07704 977322, via email or online.

What is your favourite sporting memory? Write in the comment section below.