THEY say that life begins at 40. If Jermain Defoe has his way, his illustrious playing career won’t have ended by the time he reaches his fourth decade.

On Sunday, the striker took his tally for the season to 12 goals from 14 games as he hit a hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Hamilton Accies. On Monday, Defoe turned 38.

The Englishman may be in the twilight of his career, but he shows no signs of slowing down or of the years catching up with him as he continues to lead by example on and off the park.

The loan deal Rangers have with Bournemouth, and Defoe’s Cherries contract, both come to an end next summer.

But he is determined to extend his career and his time working under boss Steven Gerrard.

“The way I feel now, easily,” Defoe said when asked if he could play into his 40s. “I do everything right [to prepare for matches], which is easy for me. My recovery, training, knowing how to manage myself. All the things you should do, I do. I think it’s showing in my performances.

“He’s said to me he’s delighted with how I’m playing but not just that, with how I am around the place with the younger lads, helping everyone. It was nice for him to say that.

“I want to stay. It’s a special football club - you feel it.”

The relationship that Defoe has with Gerrard was the reason that he made the move to Ibrox in January. It has certainly paid off for both parties thus far.

Defoe has been an integral part of the Gers squad this term and is loving life alongside his former England team-mate.

“If you become a manager you have to become a bit different, you’re the boss,” he said.

“But there’s times when he doesn’t say anything to me because he knows me. There’s times when he says to me ‘do you want a down day, a day to stay in and rest’ - because he knows I’ll say ‘no I want to play!’.

“He understands me. He’s my ex-team-mate and he knows I love scoring goals.”

Victory over Accies at the weekend saw Rangers claim top spot in the Premiership standings and move two points clear of Celtic. But boss Gerrard was quick to play down the achievement to focus on the job in hand in the top flight.

“You don’t want to boast about being top of the league, there’s still a long way to go,” Defoe told Sky Sports. “We have to respect our neighbours, everyone in the league and continue what we’re doing. When you’re lifting the trophy at the end then you can do what you want and properly celebrate.”