FOOTBALL runs right through Mike Heath’s life — but not just as the good amateur goalkeeper he has always been.

For Mike, now 64 and from Tyldesley, it has not only been an interest but provided links with Bolton Wanderers FC which still give him a role in the club today.

Born in Leigh and educated at Leigh Boys’ Grammar School, young Mike fostered an early interest in both playing and watching the sport. Regular visits to his grandmother in Blackpool meant his Dad took him along to watch Blackpool FC from the age of seven, but in his teens in the 1970s, he alternated these matches with watching Bolton Wanderers’ home games.

Eventually, he just supported BWFC, glorying in the era of Freddie Hill, Peter Reid and Frank Worthington. At the same time, he joined the Scouts locally (21st Bolton, 1st Hulton) and went from being a Cub right through the movement to Scout leader for many years.

Unsure what to do after A-levels, he decided to follow his dad — a mining surveyor — into surveying and applied to become an apprentice with builders Seddons, then based at Little Hulton.

“Just to show how the interview process has changed, I was asked to write down my name and address — then told they’d see me on the following Monday!” laughed Mike.

That was the start of a lengthy and interesting career with Seddons which spanned 43 years, finishing only two years ago, and saw him retire as a development surveyor working on care homes from East Anglia to Scotland. During his time at Seddons, Mike also played football for the company’s team as goalkeeper — an activity which stopped only a year or two before he retired.

A colleague at Seddons, Roy Cavanagh, was already involved with the Junior Whites at BWFC and, knowing Mike’s Scouting links, asked him to help out with the Junior Whites.

“We were at Burnden Park then and it was all on a voluntary basis,” recalled Mike. “I used to transfer many of the games and activities I’d done with the Cubs and Scouts over to the Junior Whites!”

This active role with them has continued for more than 30 years and seen the Junior Whites move into the professional set-up of the club today at the Macron Stadium.

One of Mike’s main roles originally was looking after the match-day mascots, which he still does, although this has changed out of recognition.

“At Burnden, we used to just meet the youngsters outside the stadium and they would go onto the pitch with the players,” explained Mike “Today, it’s a much fuller experience.”

The youngsters, boys and girls usually one to seven children involved, meet Mike two hours before the match in Bolton Whites Hotel and are given refreshments and extensive tours of everything from corporate boxes to the directors’ suite and from the media suite to pitch-side and Lofty the Lion.

Photos are taken of them throughout — if they are lucky, commentator Jack Dearden might even let them put on his headphones and microphone — and they also meet the players who sign their souvenirs.

“The look on the faces of the children when they meet the players is magical,” stated Mike.

It’s also quite an experience for their parents “who are often very excited about the whole thing!”.

Interestingly, Mike is now finding that many of the young mascots’ parents were also mascots.

Mike himself, married to Shirley, has two grown up sons, Darren and Karl who were also mascots and ball-boys when young and joined Mike watching the family’s favourite team.

Today, his interest in football has come full circle and he has returned to playing — this time in the walking football sessions held each week at the USN Bolton Arena nearby, still as goalkeeper.

Alongside his sporting life, however, Mike also developed an early interest in photography and bought his first decent camera when he started work.

He began photographing steam engines and this has become another fascinating hobby which has not only led to him travelling around the country, but also to becoming an award-winning amateur photographer.

Mike has also published 24 books, mainly railway-related, but latterly including handsome hardback books about Manchester and its buildings which have proved popular.

He shares his photography hobby with his sons and is quick to praise their skills.

As for his own, modest Mike summed up himself: “I’ve just been lucky to have enjoyed so many things in my life.”