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Football League

Life Beyond the Premier League: Naps and nous help keep Ian Goodison's colourful career up and running at 40


Cleopatra supposedly sought the elixir of eternal youth in baths of asses' milk, but for Tranmere Rovers defender Ian Goodison, the oldest outfield player in the Football League, there is a rather less messy antidote to the ageing process.

"As soon as I leave here I go straight to sleep and don't move 'til six," he says in a lilting accent which suggests dropping off is never a problem.

Goodison turns 41 in November, eight days before Ryan Giggs – the poster boy for football's yoga-practising Peter Pans – hits 40, yet he evidently takes a more laidback approach to longevity. This, after all, is a man who only took up yoga last month, who remains averse to ice baths – "I don't do that stuff" – as he cannot stand the cold, and who still pops into McDonald's for the odd chicken and chips.

Yet there is not a fleck of grey in his still-thick dreadlocks so the long afternoon naps are obviously working. Goodison has already featured six times for Tranmere this season, including the full 120 minutes of their League Cup win over Bolton in which he was man of the match.

"The other day a player came over and said, 'when are you going to retire?'," he tells The Independent. "I was like, 'I don't even know because I am still having you lads – the minute you start running past me I will know.' I don't see any reason to retire. I know I'm getting old but I'm still playing 90 minutes."

A light training regime helps. "I train on Thursday and Friday," he explains. "On Monday and Tuesday, I do upper-body stuff and go on the bike, and Wednesdays are off."

It probably helps too, he suggests, that he did not begin playing professionally in this country until joining Hull City in 1999, aged 26. That followed his participation in the 1998 World Cup with Jamaica – a story to put Cinderella to shame.

He was not even playing top-flight football in Jamaica at the time but instead was turning out for two different teams for cash – Olympic Gardens in Kingston and another club in the Cayman Islands, a 45-minute flight away.

"I went from playing in front of 300 people to playing for my country. I used to play for Olympic on the Saturday and then go to Cayman on Sunday morning, play during the week and then come back on the Friday."

Goodison lined up against Argentina's Gabriel Batistuta and Croatia's Davor Suker at France '98 as well as captaining the Reggae Boyz when they beat Japan.

"The whole country was buzzing," he recalls, adding: "Sometimes I sit down on the bus and the lads say, 'Who's the best striker you played against?' The best was Romario, in the Gold Cup in Miami. He was special. Now you see him, now you don't – his movement was proper clever."

For the record, Goodison, capped over 100 times, helped Jamaica hold Brazil to a 0-0 draw.

"When I was younger, I think I was miles better," he reflects as he describes how his mind does the work of his legs these days. "I stand there," he says pointing to an imaginary position, "because I know the boy is going to move there. I see stuff before it happens most of the time."

He also guides the Tranmere youngsters around him. "Especially [fellow centre-back] Ash Taylor – I try to tell him to read the game. I could be his dad," he says, smiling.

Goodison has been with Tranmere since February 2004 and hopes to stage a testimonial match next year involving Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle, the West Indies cricketer. He is four games away from his 400th appearance for the League One side, yet defeats such as last weekend's 4-3 injury-time loss to Brentford still hurt as much as ever.

"I was fuming. I still go home and can't sleep, thinking about whether I could do something different." Fortunately, though, any insomnia is only fleeting.