Billy Sharp proves football's an old man's game too as 34-year-old follows Defoe, Zlatan and ...
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TO be 34 and still scoring in the Premier League is something to celebrate.
Billy Sharp has two goals for Sheffield United this season and manager, Chris Wilder, noted: “He has had to be patient but he’s a fantastic leader in the dressing room.”
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Sharp has just celebrated his 34th birthday, which is certainly no signpost to the retirement home. But in the context of football being a young man’s game, ‘celebrated’ might not be the right word.
It’s hard to say when a player becomes a veteran because a few have several more years of top-class football in them beyond the age of 33.
Surprisingly, perhaps, a number of them are goalscorers, one of whom is still busy selling his extraordinary talents around major clubs.
This particular superstar is, of course, 38-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose latest stint in Milan — his third in the Italian city —
Sharp is another guy who keeps scoring, having travelled widely, although not as spectacularly as the Swede.
A Canning Town lad, he joined his local club at 16 — that’s us at West Ham — and made his debut in 2000.
He knows his own mind, he trains well, he is so careful about his health he’s almost a vegan.
He also gets involved with supporters and his special friendship with the inspirational Bradley Lowery, the Sunderland fan who died from cancer aged six, was national news.
Like many top-class strikers, you’re hardly aware of him until he has the ball at his feet in the penalty area.
In the end, it’s love of the game more than its monetary rewards that marks out the stayers.
James Milner at Liverpool is a classic case.
Even at the Reds, the all-purpose 34-year-old makes — which he very rarely is.
When Jurgen Klopp took a week off and advised his team to do so, Milner turned up to encourage the reserves in their FA Cup fourth-round replay against Shrewsbury.
While even goalkeepers don’t go on forever, they endure the best.
They’re said to be crazy and none more than John Burridge.
His first-team debut for Manchester City in April 1995 was a Premier League record.
Budgie was 43 years, 4 months and 26 days old and still diving all over the place.
As the saying goes: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
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