Allied airmen shot down over occupied France and Germany during 1940 were among the longest-held prisoners of the Second World War. The Stalag Luft camps and indeed Colditz Castle became their home for many long years. And their sense of freedom, their expressions of joy on their release and their tears on reunions with their loved ones, and in some cases their wives, have been un-rivaled. Until now.

When walking football for the Over 50s came to an end with the second lockdown in December last year, our little football world caved in. In the summer lockdowns we still met and played as things relaxed but this time our wings had well and truly been clipped. A few renegades have met up for illegal sessions, but largely not a ball has been kicked for three months. That’s about 15 weeks. That’s more than 100 days. That’s 2,400 hours. (That’s enough time breakdowns, Ed.)

And it all fell swiftly back into place in Alexandra Park on Monday night with a HUGE turnout. There were all the Hastings regulars – Scouse Phil, Marco Van Gasman, Big H, the Cat, the Assassin, Matty, Speedy Steve, Granite Bob and Gorgeous George. Even Oh My Cod! closed his chippy for an hour and turned out.

There were the new signings – Poppi Popavic, Hassan the Motormouth, and Rusty Skillful. There were the Bexhill boys: Charlie Farlie, Medium-Sized Ian and hopeful prospects of West Ham Paul and Joey Windows. There were newbies galore Grey Cliffs who scored two on his debut and made a couple of saves for his team too; there was Legendary Reggie, fresh from his tour as a Danny De Vito lookalike and Tall Mark – both of whom haven’t kicked a ball for 20 years. There was even an appearance by Stumpy.

It was clear the time spent on practising free kicks with Hassan and OMC was completely wasted. They were universally awful. Cod scored two on the night but spurned as many chances as Charlie at the other end.

Between the sticks, there were customary heroics from the Cat who saved two pearlers, and an unbelievable post-lockdown performance from Big H who made two TRIPLE saves from first Ali then Medhi and pulled off a string of show-stopping saves that had even the delinquents watching from the benches applauding. It just felt so good to be back.

The cobwebs were blown away and even though we couldn’t play in the Cage of Dreams – because some teenaged cretins vandalized it – this was a creditable return to Over-50s footie in the town.

The only man missing was Puffing Paul Hutton who was taken ill a few days ago. Everyone wishes him a speedy return.

MOM: Howard the monumental keeper.