Kevin Ellison is a player fans love to hate. He’s been a wind-up merchant his whole career, blending his cheeky Scouse banter with ferocious tackles and skulduggery.
Every season fans of lower league football expect to see the news that he’s retired and every season, he’s still doing his thing.
His current side, Morecambe, are a perfect fit for a veteran of his standing. They epitomise everything he stands for; grit, determination and a burning desire to keep going for however long it takes.
Morecambe isn’t a footballing hotbed, they don’t have the resources of some of their fellow League Two sides and yet every season they seem to scrape out of the bottom two.
This campaign, with Ellison helping steer the ship, they’ve bagged four wins in the last six matches. That’s increased the pressure on their rivals and once again displayed their fighting spirit.
Ellison has appeared 41 times during the campaign, bagging six goals – he’s still pulling his weight.
He turned 40 recently and during their 2-0 defeat against league leaders Lincoln City, the home fans broke out in song. In the 40th minute, with their side losing, they sang Happy Birthday to their ageing star.
After the game, a Lincoln City fan handed Ellison a card with money in it to get a drink. He played for the Imps, on loan, 14 years ago.
Such is the affection for a player who has gone from being a horrible opponent to being a horrible opponent everyone respects. He’s spoken out on mental health issues, something few would ever have thought he’d do early in his career.
To see a tough tackler like him being so candid has inspired legions of fans to open up about their own struggles.
Yet he still doesn’t change on the pitch. He still laps up the abusive chants and winds up opposition players. He still weighs in with the odd goal or three every now and again too. He’s not a token 40-year-old in the side, he’s a functioning part of an effective unit, albeit one not quite as quick as he used to be.
He’s made over 750 senior appearances in his career, scoring 150 goals. He’s probably been booked as many times as that and had fans baying for his blood every week. But, over time, he’s gone from being the pariah and a hated figure to one it is impossible not to respect and admire.
You wouldn’t bet against him playing on for another five years, to the jeers, cheers and ultimately, respect of football fans everywhere.