In-Spired birthday, shame about match

Gladys Smith at The Proact Stadium, Chesterfield
Gladys Smith at The Proact Stadium, Chesterfield
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They say you’re never too old to try new things, and Gladys Smith is certainly proof of that.

After turning 100 last month, the great grandma told surprised friends and family there was something she’d like to do which she’d not yet got round to: go and watch a football match.

So, this weekend, she went along to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play Newport County in League Two. The score was a disappointing 1-1 draw on an unseasonably cold Saturday afternoon. Welcome to the world of lower league football, Gladys.

The club, on being told of her birthday visit, gave the centurion a tour of the ground before putting on special hospitality in the Leengate Legends Lounge.

Shortly before kick-off, the retired dinner lady of Apperknowle, near Dronfield, walked out onto the pitch to hand over the match ball to the referee. She was then photographed with the officials and captains in the centre circle. On returning to the sides, fans gave her a standing ovation.

Rumours that she was asked to put her boots on as the Spireites pushed for a winner in the last five minutes are completely unfounded.

“It was absolutely marvellous,” the mum of three, grandmother of six and great grandma of 11 told The Diary afterwards. “I’ve not come down yet. I thought I might be frightened when I went out on the pitch in front of thousands of people, but I wasn’t.

“I’ve never been to anything like it. Everybody at the club was so nice to me. I’ve enjoyed everything surrounding my birthday, but this has put the top hat on it.”

The whole thing came about after Gladys – who celebrated her 98th birthday by spending the night at a casino – mentioned to neighbour Nick Johnson she’d never been to a football match, despite always wanting to.

Nick, head of communications at Chesterfield, offered to take her for her birthday.

“I was delighted to be able to provide Gladys and her family with a memorable experience to mark her 100th birthday,” says the 44-year-old. “With her zest for life and positive outlook, she’s truly an inspiration.

“Whether she’ll be getting a season ticket next season, I’m not sure.”

Perhaps she won’t. Because it seems Gladys now has other things she’d like to cross off her bucket list.

Asked what she’d like to do next, her answer was simple: go up in a hot air balloon. “Don’t rule it out,” says Nick.