At the ripe old age of 37, Michael Duff admits his love of playing the game hasn’t dimmed at all.
Every game is a blessing after being told at 29 that his career was over, after suffering cruciate knee ligament damage early in the 2007/08 season.
Duff, who recently clocked up his 350th appearance for the Clarets, in his 11th season with the club, admits the fire still burns bright: “I did my knee at 29 and was told I was finished, and I think that had a big influence because you can take things for granted.
“I nearly had it taken away from me so I really appreciate what I’ve got, so I might do that little bit extra in the gym and watch what I eat.
“It was devastating to be given that news. The surgeon’s bedside manner was not the best. He held up the scan and the first thing he said was: ‘look at the f***ing state of that’.
“I still remember those words to this day. So when he tells you six or seven months later after you have the operation that you will be alright, then you believe him because you know he is not talking rubbish.
It was devastating to be given that newsMicheal Duff
“Luckily I managed to get back and I’ve had a couple of good years since and hopefully there are a few chapters left.”
Duff believes he is a better player for the injury - his professionalism having stepped up a gear to glean all he can out of his career: “I don’t know if I would still be playing if that didn’t happen.
“I’ve always had a passion for football. It definitely gave me a prick to say this won’t happen for ever. It can get taken away very quickly, so appreciate it while you’ve got it.”
And he insists Sam Vokes, back after a similar injury, and Dean Marney and Kevin Long, both rehabilitating after cruciate knee ligament damage, can come back better than ever on their recovery: “I’ve had a few conversations with Deano, I room with him. I’ve got no doubt he will come back as good, if not a better player. I believe I’m a better player than when I did mine.
“Times have changed. When Paul Gascoigne did his, players were told ‘that’s it, you’re finished’, but players like Sam Vokes have come back flying. It is just a setback.
“It can be dark times when you are in the gym on your own and all players are in training having a laugh and a giggle. If I can help anyone, I will, just as players helped me along the way.”
Players’ habits have helped prolong careers in the last two decades, as Duff explained: “When you are 21 you can eat what you want, but the game has changed during my time in it. Little things like pre-season, you are expected to turn up fit for pre-season, but when I first started you would get lads at first day of training who would have been drinking for eight weeks!
“Now you are body fat tested on the last day of the season and the first day of pre-season.”