In this day and age where players earn enough money to retire early, it’s not often you see professional footballers continue playing close to their 40th birthday. So here’s a look at the veteran players who not only had the desire to keep going at the top level, but were also good enough to score in the Premier League in the latter stages of their careers. Starting with a surprise…
10. Peter Schmeichel
Age: 37 Years, 337 days.
Match: Everton 3-2 Aston Villa – October 20th, 2001.
There’s no doubt about it, Peter Schmeichel is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Following 8 hugely successful years at Manchester United, the Danish goalkeeper moved to Portugal in 1999 and signed for Sporting Lisbon. Just two years later, Schmeichel was back in England, making the surprise move to Aston Villa. It was during that 2001-02 season that Schmeichel made history, becoming the first goalkeeper to ever score in the Premier League since it began in 1992. Villa were already losing 3-1 to Everton when Schmeichel decided to make a charge upfield for a late Steve Staunton corner. As the cross was whipped in, nobody spotted the Dane at the back post, where he volleyed home a powerful shot to give Villa a 90th minute consolation goal. Schmeichel left Villa at the end of that season after falling out of favour with new manager Graham Taylor, and moved to Man City for one last season before his retirement, aged 39. He’s now seen regularly watching his son Kasper at Leicester City, and you wouldn’t bet against the current Danish number one matching his dad’s goal scoring feat one day.
9. Gary Speed
Age: 37 years, 351 days.
Match: Bolton Wanderers 3-0 Reading – August 25th, 2007.
Following a relatively successful career at Leeds United, Everton and Newcastle, Gary Speed found a new lease of life under Sam Allardyce when he moved to Bolton in 2004 at the age of 34. Playing 30+ games a season for his first three years at the Reebok Stadium, helped Bolton to finish no lower than 8th place and twice secured UEFA Cup qualification. In his final season (2007/08) however, he fell out of favour with new manager Gary Megson and moved to Sheffield United, but not before the Welshman scored a landmark goal of his own. Bolton played Premier League newcomers Reading at home in the August and Speed opened the scoring in a 3-0 victory. His header from an El-Hadji Diouf cross made the midfielder, at the time, the only player to score in every Premier League season to date – an achievement passed in 2009 by his fellow countryman Ryan Giggs. That was his last main contribution for Bolton and after two years of playing at Bramall Lane, he moved into coaching and was appointed Wales manager in 2010. Unfortunately, just over a year later, Speed tragically committed suicide, to the shock of the footballing world. He will forever be remembered as one of the most consistent players in Premier League history.
8. Mick Harford
Age: 38 years, 35 days.
Match: Wimbledon 1-1 West Ham United – March 25th, 1997.
Something of a journeyman, the powerful forward Mick Harford, played for 11 clubs during his 21 year career, with most seasons in the top flight of English football. And it’s in the Premier League where Harford finished his career at Wimbledon – controversially turned into MK Dons in 2004. His time at Wimbledon was mainly as a bit-part player under Joe Kinnear only scoring 9 league goals in his 4 seasons there, so it was no surprise that the striker announced his intention to retire at the end of the 1996/97 campaign. He did have one last goal in him, which he duly delivered towards the end of the season. A long throw from Vinny Jones and a flick-on from Robbie Earle, gave the veteran Harford an easy header from 6 yards against West Ham. It was a typical Wimbledon goal from the 90s, who were all about ‘getting it in the mixer’. The game petered out to a 1-1 draw, but this was Mick Harford’s last ever goal of his long career. Many saw him as one of the last old fashioned big centre-forwards and many saw it as an injustice that Harford never went to a major tournament with England. He was on stand-by for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and was unfortunate to not make the cut for the 1988 European Championships, with manager Bobby Robson opting for Mark Hateley instead. England came home in disgrace from that competition after losing all three group games and Harford had to settle for just 2 international caps.
7. Tugay Kerimoglu
Age: 38 years, 99 days.
Match: Portsmouth 3-2 Blackburn Rovers – November 30th, 2008.
Turkish midfielder Tugay only played for 3 clubs throughout his career, spending 12 years at Galatasaray, before moving to Rangers for a couple of seasons in 1999. It was at Blackburn Rovers, where he is most fondly remembered, playing well into his late thirties and scoring many trademark goals from outside the penalty area. His final career goal came in the November of the 2008/09 season in a 3-2 defeat at Portsmouth, from (yes, you guessed it) a 20 yard strike past David James. With that goal, Tugay became the oldest foreign player to score in the Premier League; a record he still holds to this day. The Turk retired at the end of that season, with his final game ending in a 0-0 draw at home to West Brom. The game was a sell out at Ewood Park that day, making it one of the only occasions in the last 15 years that Blackburn actually had a full house. For a small town team who struggle to get bums on seats, it just goes to show what a fans favourite Tugay was to the Rovers’ faithful.
6. Mark Hughes
Age: 38 years, 150 days.
Match: Leicester City 2-1 Blackburn Rovers – March 30th, 2002.
You can’t argue with what Mark Hughes achieved as a player; 2x Premier Leagues, 3x FA Cups, 2x League Cups and 2x European Cup Winners Cups between his spells at Manchester United and Chelsea. Even though his goal scoring stats weren’t spectacular, Hughes was one of the most feared strikers around throughout his career, mostly through his ability to hold the ball up with his back to goal, and his knack of scoring important goals. When he left Chelsea in 1998, ‘Sparky’ dropped back into centre midfield for Southampton, Everton and Blackburn, with the goals almost completely drying up. He only managed to score 9 Premier League goals in those final four seasons of his career.
Despite this, Blackburn manager Graeme Souness consistently picked Hughes in the centre of his midfield, with the Welshman playing a vital part in Rovers’ League Cup final victory over Spurs in 2002. Indeed that season is where Hughes scored the final goal of his long career that gets him on to this list. With Blackburn already in Europe from their League Cup win and safe in mid-table, they had nothing to play for in this match and faced a Leicester side fighting for their lives. Hughes equalised just after half-time, rising at the back post to head home a free-kick, but Leicester ground out a victory to keep their survival hopes alive. Just two months later Hughes retired from playing to concentrate on managing Wales. You forget that during his time at Blackburn, Mark Hughes was the full-time manager of his country but still played in the Premier League, a situation that you would never see nowadays! It’s a shame that Hughes’ managerial career has not had the same success as his playing days, achieving very little apart from survival wherever he has gone.
5. Graham Alexander
Age: 38 years, 183 days.
Match: Hull City 1-4 Burnley – April 10th, 2010.
With the joint longest career on this list (1988-2012), Graham Alexander most certainly worked his way to the top of English football. After spending 19 years in the lower leagues with Scunthorpe United, Luton Town and Preston North End, the right-back signed for Burnley in 2007 and they were promoted to the Premier League in 08/09, with Alexander playing in all 61 games during that campaign. As Burnley’s designated penalty taker, the Scottish international’s goals were largely from 12 yards. Indeed he was seen as one of the most reliable penalty takers in English football, scoring an incredible 77 penalties during his career – with a 90% success rate, so it’s no surprise his goal here is a penalty. Burnley were scrapping at the bottom of the table towards the end of the 2009/10 season, and the fixtures brought about a huge six-pointer against fellow strugglers Hull in April. This was probably the Clarets best performance of their campaign, basically ended Hull’s chances of survival with a 4-1 at the KC Stadium. Graham Alexander’s contribution that day were two vital penalties, making the scoreline 2-1 and then 3-1 to Burnley. Both penalties were scored by Alexander striking the ball with the outside of his foot, a technique he had used on penalties all his career, opting for power over placement; young penalty takers take note. Burnley were unable to survive relegation and Alexander moved back to Preston a year later, where he played one more season before retiring in 2012. Alexander finished his career with over 1000 senior appearances to his name, becoming only the 7th British player in history to do. He also scored over 100 goals in that time. Not bad for a right-back.
4. Stuart Pearce
Age: 38 Years, 216 Days.
Match: Southampton 2-3 West Ham United – November 25th, 2000.
After reading Stuart Pearce’s autobiography again recently, it’s no surprise that he played until he was 40. As he only turned professional at the age 21, he always felt the game owed him 5 years, and boy did he make the most of those years towards the end of his career. Making his name at Nottingham Forest in the late 80s, Pearce continued to play at the highest level well into the twilight years of his career. Signing for Champions League qualifiers Newcastle in 1997 at the age of 35, was followed by a move to West Ham two years later, where he was so influential he received another England call up. In fact, England manager Kevin Keegan openly stating that if it wasn’t for Pearce breaking his leg (which he tried to run off!), then the left-back would’ve gone to Euro 2000, aged 38! It was after that leg break that Pearce played his final season in the Premier League, starting 34 times and scoring twice. His second and final top flight goal during that 2000/01 season came in a 3-2 victory away at Southampton, with Pearce’s strike from the edge of the box putting the Hammers 2-1 up just before half time. The following summer ‘Psycho’ dropped down to Division One for one last season, to help Keegan’s new Man City side gain promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt. After securing the title with ease, Pearce was stuck on 99 career goals for City’s final game of the season at Portsmouth, and was handed the opportunity to make it 100 when they were awarded a penalty in injury time. Unfortunately, Pearce skied the pen high into the crowd with his last ever kick as a professional footballer. Stuart Pearce + penalties = drama.
3. Ryan Giggs
Age: 39 years, 87 days.
Match: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Manchester United – February 23rd, 2013.
Without a doubt Ryan Giggs is the most decorated footballer in Premier League history, winning everything in the domestic game multiple times, plus a couple of European Cups thrown in for good measure. Not only did Giggs play for Manchester United for 24 years, but he scored in each of the first 21 seasons (1992-2013) of the Premier League era, despite moving back into a holding midfield role in the latter stages of his career. His final goal for Man Utd came in a 2-0 win away at QPR in 2013, incidentally the same year United last won the Premier League title. Put through by Wayne Rooney, Giggs rolled back the years with an emphatic finish past the keeper. Just four days later, Ryan Giggs became the 8th British player to make 1000 senior appearances when he lined up in the Champions League against Real Madrid. Following the retirement of Alex Ferguson that summer, Giggs became player/coach under new manager David Moyes, and eventually took over as interim player/manager for the final 4 games of the season, when Moyes was sacked in April 2014. Just one month later Giggs announced his retirement from playing and took up the position of assistant manager to Louis van Gaal, until he was replaced by Jose Mourinho in 2016. He is currently in charge of Wales, (his first managerial position) for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
2. Dean Windass
Age: 39 years, 236 days.
Match: Portsmouth 2-2 Hull City – November 22nd, 2008.
Following spells earlier in his career at Bradford City and Middlesbrough in the Premier League, Dean Windass must have thought his time in the top flight had been and gone. However, a permanent move back to his hometown club Hull, for the 2007/08 season changed all that. A successful campaign under manager Phil Brown sent the Tigers to Wembley for the Championship play-off final, where Windass scored the club’s most famous ever goal, to send Hull to the top tier of English football for the first time in their 104 year history. Unfortunately, Windass struggled to hold down a starting place during the following season and was restricted to minutes from the bench. Although he did score one last goal for Hull, which was originally given as an own goal. The Tigers were trailing 2-1 to Portsmouth, thanks to a fabulous long range volley from Glen Johnson. In the final minute, Windass headed the ball goalwards, without adequate power, until Portsmouth defender Noe Pamarot accidentally knocked the ball into his own net. Windass was insistent the goal was his and after a decision from the ‘Dubious Goals Committee’, was eventually awarded the equaliser. I love the idea of a panel of people getting paid to decide who should be given which goals. It’s the dream job! Anyway, what they say goes, and with that Windass became the second oldest scorer in Premier League history. Just 10 months later the striker retired from professional football, following spells at Oldham (loan) and Darlington (player/coach). Windass did prove though, that it’s never too late to play and score in the top flight. Dare to dream.
1. Teddy Sheringham
Age: 40 years, 268 days.
Match: West Ham 1-2 Portsmouth – December 26th, 2006.
Teddy Sheringham had a long career in the top flight of English football, at Millwall, Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, Portsmouth and two spells at Tottenham. So when he signed for Championship side West Ham aged 38, he might have thought his career was winding down. But helping the Hammers to promotion in his first year gave Sheringham new purpose and West Ham offered him a year extension to play in the Prem again. During the 2005/06 season, he broke Stuart Pearce’s record for being the oldest Premier League goal scorer and extended on 5 further occasions, scoring 6 league goals that campaign. That season ended with Sheringham playing in the 2006 FA Cup final – becoming third oldest player to appear in a final, at the age of 40 years and 41 days. Unfortunately, West Ham lost on penalties to Liverpool after an incredible 3-3 draw (aet). The only player to score for West Ham in the shootout? Yep, Teddy Sheringham.
The Hammers offered Sheringham a further one year deal for the 2006/07 season and this is where we come to his final goal. The striker extended his goal scoring record by a few more months earlier that season, but the goal that is in the record books came on Boxing Day in 2006. West Ham were struggling at the bottom of the table, at the time, and Alan Curbishley had come in to replace Alan Pardew as manager. Portsmouth went to Upton Park that day on a roll and took the lead through two rare Linvoy Primus goals. Teddy Sheringham and Carlos Tevez came on at half time and eventually made an impact when Sheringham slotted home a consolation from a tight angle, ten minutes from time. That was the last contribution the 40 year old made during that campaign, as Tevez was used more frequently and helped West Ham to survive on a dramatic and controversial last day of the season. Sheringham dropped down a division that summer to move to Colchester for one final year as a professional footballer before retiring, aged 42. Apart from an unsuccessful spell in charge of Stevenage, Sheringham has largely been off the radar since hanging up his boots, preferring the golf course these days.
Looking at this list and the ages of current Premier League players, I cannot see anybody breaking his record anytime soon, so for the immediate future at least, Teddy Sheringham will remain the oldest goal scorer in Premier League history. Surely even Andy Cole must be impressed at that.