Birmingham manager Alex McLeish backs Kevin Phillips to play until he's 40

04 April 2011 12:10
Every manager has an exception to the rule, a special case. As far as Alex McLeish is  concerned, they do not come much more special than Kevin Phillips.

The Birmingham manager could not have heaped any more praise on  Phillips as the player in question bounced past him on the way out of St Andrew's on Saturday night following the 2-1 win over Bolton.

Phillips, hearing his name, paused and what was already a wide smile broadened even further. The glance that was exchanged displayed a mutual respect and affection.

Phil your boots: Birmingham's Kevin Phillips is still proving a valuable asset despite his age

By 'Eck: Blues boss Alex McLeish is confident Phillips has plenty more left in the tank

Age will be the inevitable victor in Phillips's battle to extend his career but McLeish is backing the oldest outfield player in the BarclaysPremier League to follow the example of Teddy Sheringham and Gordon Strachan by playing at the age of 40.

Former England striker Phillips is best remembered for scoring 127 goals in 237 games for Sunderland, including 30 in the 1999-2000 season as he won the European Golden Boot award the only Englishman ever to do so.

Now McLeish is asking him to make an invaluable contribution to the Birmingham relegation fight.

Strachan, McLeish's team-mate at Aberdeen, famously cited a diet of seaweed tablets and bananas as the secret of his longevity.

Ready Teddy: Sheringham continued in the top flight beyond 40

TOP 10 OLD TIMERS 1 Ryan Giggs (37, Man United)2 Gary Speed (38, Bolton)3 Stuart Pearce (39, West Ham)4 Bryan Robson (39, Middlesbro)5 Mark Hughes (38, Blackburn)6 Gordon Strachan (40, Coventry)7 Teddy Sheringham (40, West Ham)8 Les Ferdinand (39, Bolton)9 Dean Windass (39, Hull)10 Lee Dixon (38, Arsenal)

Phillips, who enjoyed spells at Southampton, Aston Villa and West Bromwich and celebrates his 38th birthday in July, has the lowest body fat ratio at Birmingham. The hunger that burns within him is still for the chance to score goals at as high a level as possible for as long as possible.

McLeish was so convinced he broke his own rules in January and  promised Phillips, who has scored 22 goals in 77 appearances for the club, more game time as well as allowing him to start a career as a pundit.

'It's very rare for me to do that,' admitted McLeish. 'But there were clubs interested in Kevin and Ididn't want him to go. I guaranteed him minutes on the pitch and looking at him now maybe I should have played him earlier. He is a modelpro and he doesn't rock the boat.

'He just wants to play football and feels he's still got it. He's comparing himself to people who reached the age of 40 and continued to play in the  Premier League such as Gordon  Strachan and Teddy Sheringham.

'I hope and believe he can get us the goals to stay in the Premier League. I've seen him on the TV too. What's he like as a pundit? Not bad!'

 Let the respect campaign begin: And we will be naming and shamingBirmingham 2 Bolton 1: Phillips helps Blues climb out of relegation zoneIs this Respect, Fergie? United boss blasts Premier League chief over plansAll the latest Birmingham news, features and opinion 

 Explore more:People: Gordon Strachan, Teddy Sheringham, Kevin Phillips, Alex McLeish Places: Aberdeen, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Source: Daily_Mail