‘His legs have gone’

‘His legs have gone’ – one of football’s many unfairly used football cliche’s.

There are many cliches in the world of football, but one that really sticks with me is the classic ‘his legs have gone’.

It takes a lot of work to become a footballer – you have to maintain your fitness levels from a very young age, and continue to push yourself throughout your career. Once (or even twice) a week, August to May, you endure 90 minutes of chasing a ball, throwing yourself into tackles, jumping for headers – you get the idea, and that’s not even mentioning pre-season.  I’ve got no facts to back me up here, but I’d hazard a guess that most players do retire around the age of 35.

A lot of football fans, however, seem to have some strange idea that, once a player hits 30, ‘his legs have gone’ – and that there is no place in the team for them now.

Imagine if someone that puts so much fitness work in, and has dedicated the last 15 years(ish) of their lives to the game, wasn’t able to push on and offer something after age 30!

Lee Mansell - have his legs gone? - NO.

Lee Mansell scores the promotion winning penalty

No one puts this cliche to shame more than our very own Lee Mansell. We have since interviewed Lee – check it out here.

Signed from Torquay United in 2014 at the tender age of just 31, I was a happy guy having been an admirer of his from afar during his many years down at Plainmoor (an admirer of his footballing talents, rather than his smile, although that’s pretty top notch too). Unfortunately the Torquay faithful, for whom he had served so admirally for EIGHT years, filled me with uncertainty.

Relegated from League Two themselves that year, some of their fans took to social media to celebrate joyously at the loss of their captain. The general consensus among the Gulls was that, although offered a new contact down there, it was not a particularly appealing one, as they didn’t really want him to stay! There is no evidence to back this up, but that is what so many of their fans claimed at the time.

I was already worried following our relegation to non-league, so to read fans that have watched him for many years claiming that, you’ve guessed it, ‘his legs have gone’, got me very worried.

You can imagine my happiness at writing this post then when, in February 2016, we sit 4th in League Two, with Lee Mansell regularly captaining our team, having led us to promotion and having netted ‘THAT PENALTY’ last year.

Lee was captain of the Torquay United side that were relegated along with ourselves 2 years ago, but in a team that compliments his strengths, and with our supporters and manager that believe in him, he is more than playing his part in a promotion push at the right end of the table – 2 years after his ‘deserved’ release from a relegated L2 side!

Yes, the job that Manse plays in our team may be somewhat different to what he used to offer back at 25, but his experience in the game in the 8 years since has arguably made him even more valuable now.

Those Torquay supporters who slated their loyal captain will likely have a different opinion of it now, and I’ve no doubt that they dream of Manse returning to Plainmoor – they are, at the time of writing this, rock bottom of the Vanarama National League.

Here are some of my favourite Torquay fans comments of our promotion hero and gracious captain.

I said many times that Mansell was overrated. Anyone missed him this season? – Southampton Gull, September 2014

I agree with all youre comments we have moved on a lot of dead wood. mansell was woeful to put it mildly – Okehampton Gull, June 2014

Mansell – Has looked poor the last two years, and as with Nicho, time is catching up. – Leetufc, June 2014

 

Andy Monkhouse. They said 'his legs have gone' - that could not have been further from the truth.

Andy Monkhouse

Another worthy mention goes out to the silver bearded promotion hero, Andy Monkhouse.

2 years Manse’s senior, Andy sparked a fair bit of debate upon joining the club. Like Manse, he had been at his previous club, Hartlepool United, for 8+ years!

Monky went on to play a vital role in our promotion winning side, partnering Lee Brown down the left flank to great effect, and arguably bringing out the best in Lee too.

Hartlepool fans, like Torquay fans, informed us Gasheads (desperately hunting for information on our new signing), that Monkhouse’s ‘legs had gone’.

Monky was never a player blessed with pace, at 6ft 2 (wikipedia tells me, anyway), he was never the kind of midfielder to go flying down the wing, leaving defenders in the dusk. Monky uses his ability on the ball and his cool head to bring others into play, he’s also pretty effective in the air and hasn’t got a half bad strike on him either. I get the impression that he probably has about the same amount of pace now (at the age of 35), as he has done since he was 18. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a tidy player.

Without the efforts of Andy Monkhouse, Lee Mansell, Mark McChrystal, and Steve Mildenhall, Rovers probably would not be in League Two this season. And though Macca and Mildy haven’t featured too much this season, Manse is still playing a pivotol role in the middle of the park (arguably one of the most exhausting positions in the game), and Monky is performing well for Grimsby Town having opted against remaining with The Gas. Jermaine Easter has also played a big part in helping us to 4th in the league this year, at the age of 34.

Liam Lawrence, have his legs gone?

Liam Lawrence

We will be desperately hoping that we can say similar in a years time about Liam Lawrence, who signed from Shrewsbury Town last month.

No stranger to most Gasheads, Lawrence has had a fantastic career to date, most well known for his time at Stoke City and Sunderland in the Premier League. At the age of 34, many Shrewsbury fans cast him with the ‘his legs have gone’ iron during his last few months at the club – but I wonder if he is just the wrong type of player for their current situation.

A 34 year old winger who, undoubtably has lost a lot of his pace, may struggle in a team fighting at the wrong end of the table. But for a team that just crave a little bit of technical brilliance, a little bit of that talent he’s proven he’s got over the last 15+ years, I’ve no doubt he has got a lot to offer.

I think this is the main issue with football fans slating players for getting too old is – they need to be used in the right way. If we asked Monkhouse to bomb it down the wing last year, he would have failed. If we asked Manse to drive with the ball, back and forth in the middle, for the full 90 – he would fail. Actually to be fair, I reckon Manse would give it a damn good shot! But anyway, they both did the tasks they were given to great effect. Monkhouse in holding the ball and releasing Lee Brown, and Mansell in shielding the defence, using his experience to inspire the team, and keeping calm and collected on the ball when required – especially, of course, when taking that penalty.

Shrewsbury wanted Liam Lawrence to battle in the middle of the park during a relegation battle, in a struggling side, and at his age maybe he cannot offer that. But he has been brought to our club to provide creativity, calmness on the ball, and experience – in a side full of confidence and maybe missing just that last spark. And let’s hope he can offer that in the last few months of the season.

UTG.

I’ve been a Rovers fan since birth and have been a season ticket holder for over 10 years. First season ticket was the promotion from L2 under Trollope, so not a bad bit of luck that. Been hooked ever since, and though I’ve been through the pain of two more relegations, I am more Gas than ever. Also one of the 3 founders of GasCast.

One Response to “‘His legs have gone’

  • Jack Newcombe
    2 years ago

    Good blog. I think it is one of those lazy football cliches people roll out for an under performing player who is north of 30 years old.

    There are certainly players who can adapt their game after losing a bit of pace (the players you’ve mentioned certainly fit into that category) and some who quite frankly can’t. Notably these seem to be the players who have relied largely on their pace in their careers to be an effective player.

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