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View from...a Rover

Posted on 26 August 2009  - 12:00

In the latest of our 'View from...' series to preview forthcoming games, we speak to Neil Sullivan, still going strong at 39 and set to face us at Doncaster.

View from...a Rover

In the latest of our 'View from...' series to preview forthcoming games, we speak to Neil Sullivan, still going strong at 39 and set to face us at Doncaster.

'Sully' joined us from Wimbledon in the summer of 2000 and enjoyed an outstanding first season when he was rated as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and voted our 'Player of the Season' by fans.

He moved to Chelsea in 2003 and then played over 100 games for Leeds United before joining Doncaster permanently in June, 2007 - helping Rovers to promotion to the Championship in 2007-08 via a play-off final against Leeds at Wembley.

He's just gone past his 550-game career mark and has no thoughts yet of hanging up his gloves...

NEIL SULLIVAN maintains the theory that age is no barrier to goalkeepers performing at the top level of the game.

Now 39, the former Spur will be between the sticks for Championship side Doncaster Rovers in tonight's (Wednesday, August 26) Carling Cup second round tie at the Keepmoat Stadium.

He follows the path laid down by the legendary Pat Jennings, who played in the 1986 World Cup aged 41 and goalkeeping greats such as Peter Shilton (who played for Orient aged 47), Ray Clemence (retired at Spurs aged 40), Neville Southall (played until 42) and Peter Schmeichel (40).

He is also one of a number of goalkeepers still plying their trade as they approach 40 - Brad Friedel (38), David James (39) and Mark Schwarzer (37 in October) are three examples in the Premier League.

A man in demand this week, Sully, who joined us in June, 2000, admits he isn't looking too far ahead having recently passed that 550-game mark in career appearances for Wimbledon, Spurs, Chelsea, Leeds and Doncaster.

"I feel fit and I feel healthy," Sully told Doncaster's official matchday programme this week. "As long as the manager is happy and the punters are happy then I will just keep going until I have to stop.

"To be fair, I have been very good with injuries and my joints. I've never been quick and I've never had a good spring, so I'm not going to lose that as I get older! We'll carry on and we'll see how we go."

Sully played 81 times for us between 2000 and his move to Chelsea in September, 2003.

But it's his first season that will always be remembered so fondly as a host of inspired performances had pundits claiming he was the best in the Premier League.

Hans Segers, Sully's goalkeeping coach, wasn't going to argue. He said at the time: "I had a chat with Neil rand said to him that my target at the start of the season was to make him the best goalkeeper in the Premiership and looking at it I think we have reached that target.

"The standard he played for the last four of five months has been outstanding so for that part I'm really pleased. It took some time for Neil to adapt to Tottenham and the training sessions but he's done remarkably well and I'm delighted for him."

Sully

Capped 28 times by Scotland, Neil admitted it was a real eye-opener when he first arrived at Spurs after a long, distinguished career at Wimbledon's Crazy Gang - he was there for 12 years.

He recalled: "At Wimbledon, we didn't have much of a ground; we trained on Wimbledon Common, which we would share with a Sunday team.

"To go from there to Spurs and you walk in and there are the likes of Darren Anderton, Les Ferdinand, David Ginola and Ian Walker, whilst the training ground was fantastic and the pitches were brilliant.

"You could pull up to the ground and somebody would be there to park your car for you. It is a fantastic place and I really liked it there after George Graham signed me.

"I played for my first year, then a new manager came in and I didn't play as much - which is the way that things go in football."

So what does the future hold for this 39-year-old who shone again for Rovers in the Championship last season - so much so, that he was a narrow runner-up in the club's Player of the Season poll.

"Just play - beyond that, who knows? I honestly don't know beyond that," he said.

"Doncaster is a very well-run club, it's ambitious. It would be easy for a club like Donny to get into the Championship and think ‘that's it, we're done' but we want to kick on and keep going. That suits me fine and it's great.

"As I say, I love playing football. I could have stayed at Leeds or Chelsea, but I enjoy playing in games of football and I am having a great time."

With thanks Steve Uttley and Doncaster's official matchday programme - the full interview with Sully is in tonight's programme.