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Former Charlton striker Kevin Lisbie could be playing for Cray Valley at Wembley aged 40

By Matthew Panting

Kevin Lisbie admits he loves the challenge of playing in the Southern Counties East League.

The former Premier League striker – now 40 – is still banging in the goals nearly 16 years since he scored a hat-trick against Liverpool.

Lisbie is enjoying his football now with Cray Valley, who find themselves just one round away from Wembley in the FA Vase.

“I love playing football,” said Lisbie. “I retired a year and a half ago and Kevin (Watson) called me back to play.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve loved it. I’ve made sure I’ve taken care of myself, obviously there’s a lot of youngsters around me so I’ve got to set an example, I keep myself nice and fit and I enjoy it.

“As you get older it gets harder, believe you me! It’s not as easy running past people any more so you have to use your head.

“Listen, if I wasn’t doing this then I’d be playing Sunday league football. It’s given me an opportunity to (possibly) play at Wembley again.

“The quality is really good and anyone that thinks otherwise should come down and see as it is a good quality.”

Lisbie is a marked man at this level of football. Well known for his exploits in the Premier League with Charlton, Lisbie also featured for the likes of Ipswich, Colchester and Leyton Orient.

He’s still got the quality to be a leading marksman at this level, scoring 26 times so far this campaign despite limiting his matches with age no longer on his side.

“Every game is difficult for me because everyone wants to play against me and test themselves,” said Lisbie.

“I have to get myself up for those games and make sure I don’t let the team down.

“It is physical and everyone wants to do well against me so I have to make sure I am ready.

Cray Valley striker Kevin Lisbie Picture: Alan Coomes
Cray Valley striker Kevin Lisbie Picture: Alan Coomes

“Of course (the easier option is to be coaching now). You can start looking at the future but I want to enjoy (playing).

“My kids love to see me play, I’ve got four boys that come down here. They love me doing it, obviously I coach them and tell them what to do so they can see in my performances that I’m trying to tell them the right things. It’s important that they see me play still.”

A trip to Wembley might delay Lisbie’s retirement as well. After leaving Barnet in 2016, Lisbie had a brief spell at Whitehawk but he thought his playing days were over until Cray Valley boss Kevin Watson came calling.

Now he could be tempted to play another season – particularly if Cray win the FA Vase or gain promotion to the Bostik League.

“I’ve played for a long time, I’ve enjoyed it and the minute I stop enjoying it then I’ll stop,” stated Lisbie. “But at the minute I’m absolutely loving it and hopefully if it continues like this then I’ll have a go next year as well.

“It will all determine on what happens at the end of the season – if we’ve won the league or we win a cup.

“I’m sure I’ll have the buzz if we do, if we don’t then I’ll probably look at it and wonder if it’s worth doing all that again.

“Me and Kev will sit down as we did at the end of last season and talk about it then.”

Lisbie and veteran strike partner Gavin Tomlin are both aiming to reach Wembley for a second time.

Former Southend forward Tomlin lost out to Bury in the 2013 Football League Trophy final while Lisbie was part of the Orient side beaten by Rotherham in a League 1 promotion play-off final in 2014.

Only fellow Southern Counties East League side Canterbury stand in their way ahead of their two-legged semi-final.

“We’ve got Gavin Tomlin who’s played at Wembley as well and he doesn’t shut up about it!” said Lisbie.

“The boys would love it, it will be a great occasion for this club and the boys in the changing room.

“I pray that we get there just to see the look on their faces and to play at Wembley.”

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