Veteran Kevin Ellison ready to give Sir Stanley Matthews ‘a run for his money’

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Wembley-bound Kevin Ellison plans to give Sir Stanley Matthews “a run for his money” with the Newport striker having no thoughts of retirement at the age of 42.

Ellison became the oldest outfield player to feature in the EFL play-offs in Newport’s Sky Bet League Two semi-final against Forest Green, helping the Welsh club to a 5-4 aggregate win with a superb solo strike in the second leg.

He now has former club Morecambe in his sights in Monday’s Wembley final, as well as getting closer to England great Matthews who played in the Football League beyond his 50th birthday.

Forest Green Rovers v Newport County – Sky Bet League Two – Semi Final – Second Leg – The New Lawn
Kevin Ellison (left) celebrates scoring for Newport in the League Two semi-final against Forest Green (Steven Paston/PA)

“Someone mentioned Stanley Matthews to me after the Forest Green game,” said Ellison, who was born in Liverpool on February 23, 1979.

“He was a lot better footballer than me but I’m going to give him a run for his money.

“Age is just a number and I’m taking each year as it comes.

“But I want to continue playing. I feel good so let’s see what the future holds.”

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Ellison was about to call time on a 25-year senior career when Newport boss Michael Flynn contacted him last summer.

He was planning to work on a factory production line after his nine-year spell at Morecambe had ended in acrimonious circumstances amid a bitter fall-out with manager Derek Adams.

“I’m not going to say who they (factory) are because they were going to give me minimum wage,” said Ellison who, because of coronavirus, spent a week isolating in teammate Matty Dolan’s attic before joining the Newport squad.

“If they had given me good money I would name them. But that’s where I found myself applying for jobs.

Soccer – Stanley Matthews Testimonial – Stoke City v World Stars XI
England great Sir Stanley Matthews played for Stoke in the Football League when he was 50 (PA)

“I’ve got kids to feed and it wasn’t about having an ego because I was a footballer. I would have done anything.”

Ellison’s football journey began for Liverpool Sunday League team Winchester on Stanley Park in the shadows of Anfield and Goodison Park.

His first watching memories were at Anfield when Liverpool opened the gates in the final 15 minutes to let fans out and “us little scally Scouse kids bombed in”.

Ian Rush and John Barnes were his football heroes, but Liverpool “broke” his heart when telling him by post that he was not good enough for them after seven years in their youth structure.

Rush Barnes Join Newcastle United
Ian Rush (left) and John Barnes (right) were Kevin Ellison’s football heroes when he was growing up in Liverpool (Owen Humphreys/PA)

So Ellison set out on the winding path that he says has brought him “more clubs than Tiger Woods” and well over 800 senior games and 160 goals.

Ellison stepped onto a Premier League pitch as a late Leicester substitute at Old Trafford and was a Wembley play-off final loser at Rotherham as he earned contract after contract.

“I look at what I have got and what I can offer to the dressing room and I think I’m squeezing out every last drop of my ability,” he said.

“I was never a major lover of drink, but if I had a drink I’d be sick for three days. Now, if I have a drink, I’m sick for six days so I’ve given it up.

Newport County v West Ham United – Carabao Cup – Second Round – Rodney Parade
Michael Flynn stopped Kevin Ellison from working at a factory by signing him for Newport (Nick Potts/PA)

“I look after myself better, I eat better and I recover better. I am into my yoga, which always helps with my mental health.

“I changed because I felt I needed to keep up with the lads. I eat more, but I eat healthy stuff.

“I will have a portion of pasta that might be enough for two or three people, but I don’t put weight on because of the work I do.”

Which brings Ellison to Morecambe – the club for whom he has represented far more than anyone else with nearly 400 appearances – and a reunion with Scotsman Adams.

Morecambe v Tranmere Rovers – Sky Bet League Two – Semi Final – Second Leg – Globe Arena
Morecambe manager Derek Adams fell out with Kevin Ellison during their time at the club together (Barrington Coombs/PA)

Ellison felt Adams disrespected him by “doing things behind my back” before his ties with the Shrimps were severed.

When Ellison scored in Newport’s 3-1 win at Morecambe in March, he headed straight for the home dug out and celebrated right in front of his former boss.

He said: “I am glad what happened early in the season at the Mazuma where I got my little bit of payback and my emotions out.

“But that’s gone now. This is about Newport against Morecambe, not Kevin Ellison versus their manager. But I think this final is going to be ‘Kevin’s Time’.”

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