Steve Atkins Walk

Steve completes walk for SDFL!

Steve Atkins walked the walk and talked the talk!

On Sunday morning, our director Steve Atkins turned the corner into Culver Road and walked the final few paces to our headquarters, thus completing a remarkable four days of walking to raise vital funds for the Sussex Disability Football League.

For Steve, and his walking companion Tom Gallagher, the trek began bright and early in Worthing, as they set off on their first day, starting with a visit to Worthing FC.

“Yeah, we were all in great spirits that morning,” said Steve, “but the only thing was, with our schedules being what they are, it was the first time me and Tom had actually walked together!

“Thankfully though we soon realised we had about the same pace which certainly helped.

“We were also lucky to have the Town Cryer there to send us on our way, and a nice little crowd to see us off.

“So, I must admit, after the first hour I was thinking it was an absolute dream!”

Unfortunately, though, the walk from Worthing to Crawley took a bit longer than the 48 minutes Steve thought it would (owing to the fact that it was Google Maps estimate if you go by car).

But by five o’clock they’d made it up to Crawley Town’s Broadfield Stadium, with just a few scratches to show for it.

“It was a great feeling making it to Crawley and knowing that we ticked off that first day and that first big milestone.

“It was so long we just didn’t know when it was going to end!

“But what it did give us, was that belief going into the second day, because that was the big day for us.”

Setting off the next day from Crawley, Steve and Tom were cheered on by some of the players and staff, who were also able to offer up some local knowledge regarding the route they should take.

“When we showed them the way we were planning to go, they suggested going along this path, which was somewhat off the beaten track.

“Anyway, cut to a few hours later and I’m walking through this dried-up swamp, covered in mud, without a clue as to where we are!

“But we made it to East Grinstead in one piece, the only issue being that we were half-an-hour early, so we were thinking the worst, but at 11 o’clock their minibus came round the corner, which was a great sight to see!”

However, Steve and Tom were only just getting started that day, with Seaford Town, their next stop, firmly in their minds.

“We were doing alright from the day before,” said Steve, “but that stretch just didn’t seem to end, I was just watching it tick up, 20 miles, 25 miles, 30 miles…

“There were some welcome surprises to keep the spirits up, such as seeing Ken [Benham] out in the middle of nowhere!

“But at one point we’d done 35 miles that day and it was still saying we had another 13 to go.

“To avoid walking along any of the A roads, we decided to go over the hills at Seaford, which certainly contradicted the belief that we don’t have any mountains in Sussex!

“So that was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other, and just keeping on going because we knew how close we were.

“And when we arrived, at 9 o’clock at night, the crowd at Seaford Town was great to see, and it really made those 86,000 steps worth it!”

After a well-earned night's rest, it was back to Seaford the next morning, with the club's all-inclusive team there to see them off.

“After a few bacon sandwiches from the club it was off on the walk along the front and then up towards Falmer, which was such a lovely walk,” said Steve.

“We had a young lad, Aidan, join us, who’s only nine-years-old but he walked up front with me for 10 miles!

“And chatting to him as we walked and hearing his stories and how he wants there to be a junior walking club, was just a real privilege.”

By this point, the party were well and truly into their stride and putting down a remarkable pace, evidenced by the fact that, on the way to Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium, some of the Seaford party had to hop on a bus to catch up with them, only to find when they got off that they were still behind!

“That walk coming into Falmer and then along to the Amex was such a special one,” said Steve, “for me and Tom it felt like we were just flying at that point.

“We were also really grateful to have Loraine, the sister of our late chairman Mathew Major, join us for this part of the walk.

“She was there at the front with us, and chatting to everyone at Seaford, it was remarkable.

“I knew how determined she was to make it to the ground with us, and she did just that, and really did her brother proud that day.”

The Amex Stadium had been reached, but for Steve, there was still one stretch to go, as attention then turned to the home straight, and Culver Road.

Yet the final stint of the walk didn’t start out being the relaxing stroll that he might have had in mind.

“Well for the first time doing the walk I actually had a deadline to meet, in terms of actually arriving at a place on time!”, said Steve.

“We knew we needed to get back to Culver Road before 9am to help with setting up for the last day of the Disability League.

“So, we left the Amex at 3:25am, and so everywhere we went people seemed to be coming out of parties, so we got some interesting comments to say the least!

“But we got through unscathed, and in the end had about 45 minutes in the bank, but of course we still had to get to Culver Road.”

Yet Steve needn't have worried, as he turned the corner just before 9 o’clock to be greeted by a wall of well-wishers cheering him on for the final few steps.

“That was just incredible to see when I arrived,” said Steve, “I really didn’t expect that at all, and so to see everyone and to see that they’d set everything up for the day, meant such a great deal.

“Throughout the walk all the cheering I’d been getting had been from behind, so to be able to see all those people waving their flags and making all that noise for me, just spun my head!

“And then of course it was back in the van to get changed and get set for the day, because the day itself wasn’t about me, it was for the players and teams that had come down.”

Sunday saw the teams and players rewarded for their hard work over the season, with medal and trophy presentations throughout.

In doing so, for Steve, it brought home just why he’d set off on such a massive challenge.

“The moment that nearly broke me was, during the medal presentation, I was in my stride chatting away, and suddenly Fran from Albion in the Community (AITC) shouted out

‘Steve before you go on, we’d all just like to thank you for the walk’.

“And everyone clapped and all I could say was thank you, and it just showed what the football community was all about.

“It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, the football community encompasses everyone, and is just such a beautiful thing to be a part of.”

So far, through his remarkable efforts, Steve has raised over £7,000 to help keep the Sussex Disability Football League running for another season.

“To everyone who’s donated, followed us, supported us, I’d just like to say, from me and everyone at the league, a massive thank you!

“We all want the best for pan disability football in Sussex, and all the likes and shares, and every penny that was donated helps it to grow and flourish.

“So, to everyone who believed in us, thank you!”

If you’d like to donate to Steve, you can do so via his just giving page:

For further information on disability football in Sussex please contact:

T: 01903 766855