'It's me or Tommy Hutchinson? Your choice'.

Andy Robinson intended to celebrate the great veteran players from a bygone age who defied Father Time to put in masterful performances despite nudging forty. That was until he realised that years of Sky Sports, with their obsession with the here and now, had fried his memory banks.

A couple of months ago I asked the Editor if I could write an article for the ”Daily Cutter” and either due to his generosity of spirit, or because over the course of a season there’ll be a lot of articles required, or even the fact that he was drunk at the time, he told me to give it my best shot.

Initially the plan formed as a pet project to do something completely new. I was being made redundant towards the end of July and I had quickly realised during May and June whilst still in my job that looking around for a new one on jobsites all day wasn’t going to be much fun. So then what to write about? The idea that formulated in my mind came from the words of a mate who had written an article entitled “ones to watch” which highlighted the most promising youngsters currently around the football scene, coinciding with a certain “racy” news story which proved to be one of the big football topics as the season drew to a close.

The newspaper columns around this time were full of stories regarding a certain ageing Welsh legend who had been caught more than once apparently with his trousers down and his private bits intimately involved with not only busty models but also with female family members. As I only watch the news with half an eye and ear open I am still taking no chances with the legal formalities and I shan’t name the said player. Perhaps then a review of the older players in the football world who still had a great deal to offer? I gave this idea to the Editor and frankly I was surprised by his enthusiasm for the project; I however had certainly not thought this through.

The first significant problem I came across was that this venture went significantly against my own fundamental philosophy on the value and usefulness of footballers. On the football forum that I belong to we have a particular section dedicated to possible transfers and God help any member who dares suggest that we buy a player over the age of 26. I am on to them in a flash. “The greedy bastard is only coming for one last pay day” is a particular favourite comment of mine; closely followed by “ What sort of message does this send to the kids in the youth set up “ being another. Sorry, but unless you are a goalkeeper, the day after you hit 28 you need to bugger off to a Championship side or Celtic.

As for Salgado, all I ever seem to notice is that his pace has gone and for a full back he gets skinned an awful lot.

As a “pretend” journalist though I thought I’d do it anyway – suck it and see what develops – but a couple of days later I was busted and the idea was certainly dead in the water. The reason? My sum total of “outstanding” veteran players reached the grand total of five. I shall point out here that I have made very liberal use of the dictionary definition of outstanding.

I had the ginger midfield maestro from Manchester United Paul Scholes, the 100-plus capped former French captain Patrick Vieira, Danny Murphy from Fulham, the former Real Madrid and Spain right-back Salgado, now plying his trade at Blackburn, and the chap who was still in the newspapers mentioned earlier. Now if you take these one by one none of them are inspiring material. Scholes got rave reviews for a couple of weeks early in the season and then did very little, Vieira did play a part in the success of City – but it was his leadership qualities more than the driving force of nature that he had produced in his Arsenal heyday. Danny Murphy then, a decent passer of the ball, in an average to decent side but that’s about it and I don’t even think he is that old. As for Salgado, all I ever seem to notice is that his pace has gone and for a full back he gets skinned an awful lot.

Normally I don’t give up on something without a fight (actually that’s a lie – I do usually give up without a fight; but I digress) I now turned my attention to the players of days gone by. I developed an enormous and wonderful list; I would write about Dave McKay, Terry Paine, George Eastham, Peter Lorimer, Iain Callaghan, Teddy Sheringham and a host of others who played well into their late thirties. This was something I could really get my teeth into. Even to this very day whenever Spurs play I expect to hear Martin Tyler announce the back four as Corluka, Dawson, Perryman and Assou Ekotto!!

I set about my research with gusto. I visited football anorak heaven “Wikipedia” an awful lot over the next few days. I looked at players biographies on club’s official websites and most importantly I spoke to friends who were fans of other clubs and this is where the brick wall appeared again. For the older supporters like myself who began their love of the game before football appeared almost nightly on the screens it seemed that mine and everybody’s memories were hazy, sketchy and couldn’t stretch back further than the back page headlines on yesterday’s fish and chip paper or the introduction of a new signing to one of the big clubs.

My memory seemed to not only draw blanks but fire fully fledged bullets at my football soul

I sat down and tried to think what I could remember about players from my own club such as the great Alan Oakes and my memory seemed to not only draw blanks but fire fully fledged bullets at my football soul as, apart from the facts and figures of his winners medals and his reputation for being vastly underrated, I could remember very little. Other people I spoke to all in their thirties, forties and fifties had the same issues – they couldn’t really remember about their club’s former veterans and not being able to remember is a terrible thing.

This all came as a shock to me. There was a time I would not only have recalled my own but remembered those from the other teams. Obviously we as supporters will always treasure the household names such as the World Cup winners from 1966 and the other true greats of the game – but if you were a “loyal servant” and a hero to the fans of your club your legacy I am afraid is on borrowed time and I am blaming Sky.

What started off supposedly to be a pleasant trip down football’s memory lane left me believing that too much football on the TV has resulted in a sinister destruction of not only my football reminiscences but of others in my age group. In the days of 200k a week wages, 40M Transfers and when a manager hardly gets three games without a win before his job comes under pressure everything evolves around the instant and the now. These days the football fan receives 24-hour around the clock surveillance from the glamour of Charlotte Jackson, and Georgie Thompson…I have no energy left to think about Tommy Hutchinson playing until he was 44.

Has anything else been learnt from the exercise? Well how about this. If you want elderly players then just like choosing a holiday or a brand new car it’s best to go foreign. Nowhere in this piece have I mentioned a British player who went on as long – or could compare with – a Romario, Zanetti, Mattheus or a Maldini. Give me one like this and I may change my mind about players being finished at thirty.

The most important point though and I make no apologies for ramming it down your throats for a second time is this; too much football on Sky is interfering with the memory of the football fan and no matter the drama or the excitement that the modern game brings – whether it’s another tantrum from Arsene, a Rory Delap long throw, an elbow from Joey Barton or the trickery of David Silva – that can’t be a good thing.