Jamie Cureton: The 43-year-old striker chasing more football milestones

By James LawBBC Sport
Jamie Cureton celebrates a goal
Jamie Cureton was unsurprisingly among the goalscorers at a seven-a-side masters tournament in Hong Kong last year

Remember Jamie Cureton?

He's the striker who knocked a few in for Norwich in the mid-90s, scored a hatful at Bristol Rovers and Reading either side of the Millennium, kept finding the net through his 30s for Colchester and Exeter and remained prolific in the league at Dagenham after turning 40.

Ring a bell? Well, he is still going strong at the age of 43 - scoring his 350th career goal with a hat-trick in a 4-2 win for seventh-tier club Bishop's Stortford on Saturday.

He has scored in every season since 1994-95, and in all top eight divisions of English football - and Cureton told BBC Sport he is in no mood to stop.

'Let's try to get 400'

Cureton - who has played for 18 clubs during his 24 years in senior football - has already surpassed his goalscoring expectations.

In 2014, at a youthful 39, his aim was to reach 300 goals before retirement. "If I play another two years, there is a chance," he said.

Fast-forward four years and Cureton is still saying the same things, but the target has moved up to 400.

"If I'm still playing in another year's time, then that would be something in my head. I'd think 'one more year and I can do it', and I probably would try to push myself to try to achieve that.

"If I get another 10-15 goals this season and then 20 next season, we'll be getting a bit more serious and thinking about it.

"Why not? I'd hate to get very close to it and then call it a day. It's something to be chased down and I like challenges."

Within the blink of an eye, Cureton verbally commits to carrying on until he's at least 45. He thrives on chasing milestones and is not afraid to say so.

Another achievement he is closing in on is 1,000 senior appearances, with his current total standing at around 975.

"I think there's enough games this year, as long as I stay fit. If I can get another 20+ games and hit it this season, that would be brilliant," he said.

Jamie Cureton on Twitter
Cureton's latest matchball came in the colours of his first club Norwich

Outlasting his virtual self

Many of us have done it - playing out our football careers through computer games to make up for a lack of real-life ability.

Cureton is one of only two players who featured in Fifa 96 to still be playing - alongside former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura - who makes occasional cameos for Yokohoma FC at the age of 51.

"I'm quite proud of that stat because I'm a bit of a game freak and play Fifa and Pro Evolution Soccer," Cureton told BBC Sport.

"I'll be hoping that he [Miura] retires and I can be the only one, then I won't mind retiring after that. If I can still do that at 51, just coming off the bench, I'd be all right," he joked.

But sticking with the gaming theme, the veteran Bristolian has found his real-life longevity is too far-fetched even for the virtual world.

"I play Football Manager a lot. I found that I'd play myself and basically, after that year, they'd retire me every time," he added.

"My last year at Dagenham in the league, I could never renew my contract - it retired me to become a scout or coach - so even Football Manager would cast me off at 40."

Jamie Cureton
Cureton scored 55 goals in 127 games for Reading between 2000 and 2003

When Cureton (eventually) retires

Despite the popular terrace chant - 'Jamie Cureton, he's older than you' - the poacher tops the Isthmian League Premier Division scoring charts with 12 goals.

But even he knows it cannot last forever and is preparing for his future by taking a caretaker player-manager role at Bishop's Stortford, as well as a coaching role with Arsenal Under-16s.

"I know I'm in a young man's world of football and I'm a bit of a freak, I imagine, at 43," he said.

"I'm finding what avenue I really want to go down once I do call it a day. I've felt, as I've got older, I would be more suited to management rather than coaching."

Cureton admits he bought into football's drinking culture in his early days, which he says stopped him from playing in the Premier League for longer, but became more professional as he dropped down the leagues.

"I'd say I'm probably quite boring compared to how I used to be, when I was normally the life and soul of the party and the cheeky chappy around the training ground," he said.

"I'll play for as long as I can and I think people have said I'll be playing when I'm in my 50s, so you never know."

There is a laugh at the end of that sentence but, given Cureton's ability to go on and on, everyone has surely given up guessing when he will hang up those well-trodden boots.

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