ROCKS REVIEW: Nyewood Lane legend wants to keep playing ’til he’s 45

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Michael Birmingham has revealed he wants to keep playing until he’s 45 – and has started preparing for the Rocks’ new season already.

The Nyewood Lane club captain looks like being an integral part of the new Ryman one south campaign after being told by management they wanted him on board again next year.

Now the midfield stalwart has started his own summer fitness programme in an effort to remain in good shape for the challenges that another long season will bring.

He has been back with the Rocks for two seasons after a two-year spell with other clubs and says he loves the place as much as ever.

Birmingham wants to forget the title heartache that ruined the end of last season and help lead a new promotion bid in 2011-12.

“We had a job to do and we didn’t do it. It’s no good saying we were the best team in the league – we weren’t. Met Police won the league and Leatherhead went up in the play-offs, therefore they were the two best teams in the league,” said Birmingham.

“We have to forget about last season and make sure everyone gets the buzz back before we start again.

“The management have said they still want me around and I’m delighted by that.

“I’ll be 36 in July but I still feel fit, although I feel fitter at the start of 90 minutes than the end these days.

“But I feel I’m in decent shape now after a couple of years of not looking after myself. I want to play on until I’m 40 as a minimum, and in truth I’d like to carry on ’til I’m 44 or 45. I don’t see why I can’t.

“If that’s with Bognor, great, because I love it here; if it’s with another club, so be it, because that’s football.”

Birmingham made 28 starts and six appearances from the bench last season, scoring five goals. In his Rocks career, he has started 635 games, come on as sub 46 times and scored 96 goals. He is hopeful most of the 2010-11 squad will still be in place when the Rocks return for pre-season in a month’s time.

“We have a great bunch of lads and it would be nice to think we could all stay together,” he said.

“There’s always the chance one or two could move on – we would expect that, really – but hopefully there won’t be big changes.

“We had a good blend last season and if we can keep that, I think we can have a good go at the league again.”

But he had a warning for anyone who thought it was a foregone conclusion the Rocks would be near the top from start to finish.

“Last season, some teams thought we were going to be a bit of a laughing stock. We’d had back-to-back relegations and some thought we’d struggle again. For our part, we felt anything in the top ten would be excellent,” he said.

“Then when we went on a run and went top, teams were out to knock us down. And it will the same next season. We’ll be a scalp for a lot of the teams.”