Our keeper talks to Keith Brookman about his career
Congratulations to goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall who made the 400th league appearance of his career yesterday.
It has been, on his own admission, quite a nomadic journey, with Rovers being the ninth league club he has played for. Since starting out at Swindon, he's seldom spent more than two years with any of those clubs.
"I only realised I was approaching the 400 mark a few weeks ago, but it's something I am quite proud of.
"Over the years I've spoken to many players and former players and all of them have said that 500 games represents a good career so I hope I can keep going and get to that magic number.
"When I was 17 and a Youth Trainee at Swindon I really didn't think I would still be in the game at the ripe old age of 35 but I'm delighted that I am.
"As for my career being nomadic, as you so nicely put it, a number of people have, in the past, asked why I've moved around so much. I’ve usually moved on after a couple of years and I'm not sure if it’s because I get itchy feet or not.
"To be honest, moving clubs on a frequent basis is a lot more common than it was when I first started out
"In my case, I think it goes back to the time I was a young player. I was always concerned about becoming complacent and I think when you are somewhere for a long time perhaps that can happen. I could have stayed longer some of the clubs I've been at, but I always felt it was good to move on and prove myself all over again and impress people.
"Mind you, it could also have been down to the fact that clubs didn’t want me any more after a couple of years!
"When I look back I can say that I’ve had some enjoyable times at some of the clubs I’ve played for and not so enjoyable times at others, but it's all part and parcel of football and of life."
Looking back, he still has the enthusiasm of someone just starting out in the game, and can't quite believe the career he's had.
"I really didn't think I would ever play for some of the clubs I have, or with some of the players who I have been able to call team mates. I've also played against many players I never thought I would meet and
as for managers, I never thought I would play under so many!
"I reckon there have been 18 different managers in my time as a professional, which spans 17 years, among them Billy Dearden, Brian Talbot, Russell Slade, Kenny Jackett and, more recently, of course, John Ward and Darrell Clarke.
"Once again, the fact that I've played for so many tells you what football is like nowadays. In spite of all the changes, though, I've enjoyed it and been very lucky to have played for so long, especially as playing football was something I always wanted to do.
"I’m hoping that if I can stay injury free, and keep playing well, that I have many more years ahead of me and another few hundred games to play.
"My ambition is to play 100 league games for one club, and with over 60 to my name here, perhaps I'll manage that with Rovers.
"I’m happy and settled here and while things on the pitch have been a little bit slow, this is a good football club with good people and with great supporters. Everything is right for me, on and off the pitch, and I would like to spend as many years as I can here and possibly finish my career with the club."
It could be that he will be guarding the net when we move into the UWE Stadium, though he's taking nothing for granted.
"I’ve been at a couple of clubs where, when I have joined, there’s been talk of moving to a new ground. Southend is the best example as they were meant to be on the move during the second year of my contract with them, and that was five years ago!
"It is, I realise, a totally different scenario here and my current contract should take me up until the end of the first season we are in the new stadium. However I hope to be able to perform well enough to earn longer contracts here and to play for a good few years in the new stadium, and also in a few higher leagues with the club."
In such a long career there have, inevitably, been many highs and probably as many lows.
"Your favourite moments are always going to be about winning, and I think that happened most during my times at Grimsby and Yeovil, so I would rate my times with those clubs the best. At Yeovil, of course, we reached the play off final in 2007 and although we lost, playing at Wembley fulfilled one childhood dream while playing against Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, was another.
"Over the years I've played with some really good people. I've also had some very enjoyable times and I hope there are more of those to come."
Nearer the end of his career than the beginning he has started to plan for the future and although he has a media degree, the lure of coaching suggests that he will remain in the game when he does eventually hang up his boots.
"I’m doing my coaching badges now, and although the media qualification gave me another string to my bow, I've played for so long that I feel there is so much wisdom I can pass on.
"Who knows what's round the corner, though. For the immediate future playing is what I want to do. People joke about me being the oldest player in the squad, but I set myself no limits or time frames. I think if you look after yourself and stay injury free it's possible to play on into your forties.
"As long as my body allows me, as long as someone wants me, and as long as I’m not making a fool of myself I will play for as long as I possibly can."