Millen's long tale a real inspiration

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The Independent Online

Gordon Strachan recently lost his record as the oldest player to grace the Premiership when 40-year-old Teddy Sheringham stepped on to the pitch at Upton Park. So who better to appreciate the longevity of Andy Millen than Celtic's manager? The St Mirren defender will be up against Kenny Miller, who had not even started primary school when Millen joined the first of his 10 clubs over two decades ago. At 41, he is still a class act.

The fact that Millen (pictured) is also Gus McPherson's assistant manager at the Paisley club underlines that he recognises, as Strachan did, that another life awaits once he hangs up his boots. "The thing that keeps me going is fear," he admitted. "I am scared of the day when it all ends and I can't play football again. I am still not prepared for it. I love playing. I still find that prospect hard - even though I want to be a manager one day.

"I look at people like Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta [at Milan]. The fact that they are also still going is an inspiration but the demands they have are far different to mine. They have taken their bodies to the maximum level for years. Or Sheringham. To be that good, to operate at that age in the Premiership, is fantastic."

Then Millen admits his own secret: he sleeps. A lot. Not to prevent any wrinkles, just to get the rest his body needs. It was an indulgence he took to when he moved to Kilmarnock in 1993 and went full-time, giving up his job as a welder. "Tommy Burns was my manager at Kilmarnock and he drilled it into me that resting your body is the most important thing of all," he said. "I work really hard. At my age it is a balancing act. I cannot afford to miss two days away from training, and our fitness coach gave me a special programme."

He added: "The biggest thrill about this season is that my family can see me play. My son is 12 and my daughter is 15 and they get the chance to see me when they can really remember me."

Millen is making the most of what he acknowledges is probably his swan-song. He savoured the early-season trip to Celtic - whose offer to buy him in 1994 was rejected by Kilmarnock.

"I went out after the game and sat in the empty stadium, taking it all in. The game is much quicker now than it was a decade ago. There was more quality then, with Brian Laudrup and Paolo di Canio, but I am glad just to be playing."

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