Albion centre-back on the secret to longevity
GARETH McAuley admits he enjoyed his 37th birthday this week a lot more than his 35th – when he found out he was entitled to his pension.
The centre-back is ageing more like a fine wine than a pensioner and is in top form for the Baggies this term, that coming on the back of a successful summer with Northern Ireland at Euro 2016.
McAuley is one of only two Albion players to have started all 15 league and cup matches in 2016/17, scoring four goals in all competitions, including three in the Premier League – already equalling his season's best by the end of November.
He may be priceless to Albion – but, having celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday, he revealed he is already deemed uninsurable.
McAuley said: “I’ve enjoyed my last two birthdays, it’s the 35th that was the difficult one really.
“The PFA send you a letter when you’re 35 and tell you that you’re now entitled to your pension.
“Your insurance company also sends you a letter saying thanks very much for all your years as a customer but you’re no longer insurable.
“That birthday when I got those dropped in with my cards wasn’t the best.”
G-MAC ON TARGET: McAuley celebrates his third league goal of the season at Hull last month
McAuley joined Albion on a Bosman free transfer at the ripe age of 32 and has been a first-team regular ever since – making 192 appearances to date.
He is the club’s oldest outfield player to have played in the Premier League but shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.
Asked about his secret to longevity – McAuley insists it’s all about having the desire and enjoying what you do.
“I think the biggest thing is to be conditioned to playing in this league,” he added.
“You get a chance to work on things in the Premier League more so than you do in the Football League where it’s play-recover, play-recover throughout the season.
“In the Premier League you have more time to recover and not play so many games with knocks. You obviously feel fresher during the games.
“I don’t think there’s a secret to it, I think it’s more that I have a desire to do it and that I enjoy doing it. I enjoy coming to work and it’s a pleasure to be here.
“I’m not stupid enough to think it’s going to last forever. But if I do enough of the right things and if I still have the desire to put myself through it then I don’t see why I can’t keep on doing it.
“I’ll always play, even when I retire, I will always play in some form.
“I just enjoy doing it. I’m enjoying my football quite a lot at the minute.”