Is 40 the new 30?

It’s finally happened. At long last being old is suddenly in vogue.

This weekend’s fixture list has thrown up the intriguing likelihood of those two geriatric scamps Paul Scholes (37) (photo AP) and Thierry Henry (34)(photo, Getty Images)  lining up against one another as Arsenal take on Man United at the Emirates, and that’s something we thought we’d not see again, at least not in a Premier League match. With Robbie Keane returning to these shores from his abortive North American adventures to take on the challenge at Aston Villa the January transfer window has taken on a distinctly nostalgic feel.

In Olympic Games news, ‘Team GB’ look set to include those twin dodderers Ryan Giggs (38) and David Beckham (36) as two of their three over age (over 23) players next summer. Throw in the continued rude health of Tottenham Hotspur’s goalkeeper Brad Freidel (now the wrong side of 40) and the news this week that fresh faced 41 year old Scotsman David Weir is casting around for another club, having been let go by Rangers, and it’s seems something’s afoot. Perhaps those plastic bottles we see players swigging from after matches are filled from something from an eternal fountain of youth?

In another blast from the past, two former Premier League stars, Robbie Fowler (36) and Robert Pires (38) also popped up this week to sign for a new professional mega-bucks league in India.

So what does it all mean, if anything? Well, in fairness former Liverpool hit man Keane’s only 31 and Freidel’s a goalkeeper, a position where longevity is less of a surprise, but there clearly seems to be a developing trend here. My thoughts are that we are seeing the first generation of players to have benefitted from a whole career of high-tec medical care, superb conditioning and an all-round increased awareness of diet and fitness.

Let’s be honest, British footballers haven’t always been a paragon of healthy living. The drinking culture may still cling on in places but there’s no doubt the influx of foreign players and coaches into our leagues has had a chastening effect on the lifestyles of home produced lads. Those pesky continentals have been way ahead of us on that score, but perhaps no more.

Inexorable advances in medical techniques have also played part in preserving aging limbs. Lone gone are the days when a cruciate knee ligament injury or even a cartilage operation meant probable retirement. With bowling green standard playing surfaces, and the ever-decreasing tolerance for the scything, leg breaking tackle from behind, players are simply able to go on longer than before.

Yes, Stanley Matthews played until he was 51, but his was very much an isolated example. It’s normally been the case that once a player has reached his thirties, it’s all downhill. Until now. I imagine the likes of Giggs, Scholes and Weir will be commonplace in another ten years or so. Sir Stan’s record may be in some peril. So, is 40 the new 30? Well, if you’re a pro-footballer, I really think it could be.


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