Ageless Kanu keeps rolling back the years

Kanu goes close to adding to Pompey's tally
Kanu goes close to adding to Pompey's tally
Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey v Plymouth: pre-match talking points

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These days he’s swaddled in cotton wool, bubble wrap and plastic foam between outings.

Handle with Care is not a polite request when it comes to dealing with Kanu, more a necessity.

Still, he keeps on defying Mother Nature.

The veteran striker lined up against Scunthorpe on Tuesday night – his 12th start of the season.

That is more than he managed in the previous two campaigns put together.

In recent years, Kanu’s first-team inclusions have diminished considerably as he’s been reinvented as an impact player from the bench.

Until now.

Pompey’s squad woes have ensured the 34-year-old is rolling back the years.

Whether it be as a striker or operating just behind a lone front runner, he has been called upon with increasingly regularity.

Injuries to Liam Lawrence, Hayden Mullins and Joel Ward could ensure Kanu keeps his starting spot tomorrow for the visit of struggling Sheffield United.

The former Nigeria international’s amount of appearances this season is testament to his fitness.

And, of course, the manner of his handling by his manager.

Steve Cotterill said: ‘I love Kanu.

‘You have to look after him and look for those special moments.

‘He’s a fantastic man, I really like him. You can see why he’s been so popular over the years and why he has achieved what he has done.

‘He does not do all the running the other lads do. He will do some of it but not all.

‘We need to look after him and, from time to time, you are probably better off giving him a day off as opposed to bringing him in for a warm down.

‘He can spend two-and-a-half hours in the car getting here, 30 minutes on a warm down and two-and-a-half hours in the car again.

‘You may be better off leaving him at home.

‘We have done that a couple of times and, no doubt, will be doing that a couple more.

‘He has gone from not playing for a couple of years to all of a sudden playing games in the hurry scurry of the Championship.

‘But it’s needs must.’

Kanu has now started more league games for Pompey than any of the four major clubs he previously played for: Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal and West Brom.

That Scunthorpe appearance was his 64th for the Blues – one more than Kanu managed at the Gunners.

In total, he has played 148 times and scored 27 goals since arriving at Fratton Park in the summer of 2006.

What’s more, there is still another two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract.

So there could be plenty more of that Kanu magic for a good while yet.

Cotterill added: ‘I don’t know what keeps him motivated. I have thought that some days.

‘Some days when he first jogs out he doesn’t look motivated, sometimes in the first 10 minutes he doesn’t look motivated.

‘But the guy is a class act, very humbling and brings a lot to the dressing room in his own quiet way.

‘Kanu will have a couple of moments whatever game you put him in.

‘Whether it’s out there playing for us against Scunthorpe or if you put him in the Champions League final with whoever is there, Kanu will still have his moments.

‘I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I would love to have managed Kanu 10 years ago.

‘Mind you, how do you coach him?

‘You don’t need to say anything because he will do something you haven’t even thought of.

‘He’s a top, top bloke.’