To stick or twist has to be the ultimate dilemma to confront any footballing old-stager but arguably more so if you happen to be Ashfield veteran Mark McManus preparing to celebrate (surely that can’t be the right word?) his 40th birthday in three weeks’ time.

The question over whether he should persevere for one more time appears to have been answered for him by Saracen Park team boss Paul Maxwell’s offer of a new playing contract however the only reward Mark seemingly wants is to figure in his gaffer’s selection thoughts, more often than not.

“I have to be making a contribution rather than hanging about the place like some antique ornament,” insisted the midfield ace who can number Yoker Athletic, St Anthonys, Rutherglen Glencairn, Maryhill, Petershill, Largs Thistle, St Anthonys and Rob Roy among his former clubs.

He continued: “That very same ethos has served me well throughout my playing career and I don’t see the need to change tack now even if it results in me hanging up the boots because I am unable to add anything to the team.

“Hopefully it won’t come to that and though resigned to the fact I cannot expect to be playing in every game, I’m nevertheless chuffed to bits knowing Maxi thinks I may have a key role to perform for his side.

“That said, a place in his team is no given and looks like it will be hard-earned because he has deliberately gone down the road of injecting a fair degree of youth into his playing squad for the coming season at the expense of Ashfield’s more experienced types, with the exception of myself.

“Indeed if you take me out of the equation then there are only two other players around 30 years of age with everyone else either a teenager or in their early 20’s so our average age is bound to be lower than most clubs.”

Mark attributes his remarkable staying power and longevity in the game to lessons learned at his very first Junior club Rob Roy after stepping up from Harestanes Under 21s.

He recalled: “Gordon Wilson signed me for the Rabs but within a matter of months was replaced by Mick Oliver who also worked as a scout for the then Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce.

“Mick’s experience of a Senior club’s workings had him drilling into us the importance of good preparations and diet disciplines which I still carry out to this day  and probably explains why I’m still playing when so many past team mates have hung up the boots.

“One of the notable exceptions is my former Yoker Athletic sidekick Gary Bissland who recently signed on at Holm Park for an 18th consecutive season and his one club career  puts me firmly in the shade.”

Club captain Mark is hoping to feature tonight when Ashfield  host the visit of WoSFL newcomers St Peters  in their second  pre-season friendly match that follows last Saturday’s opening 3-0  victory over Maryhill through scores by Ben Dailly(2) and Brad Rodden.

He revealed,” Maxi’s many close season changes include the additions of Dailly from Caledonian Braves , the former Thoriewood United skipper James Marr, ex-Gartcairn midfielder Darren Burns and winger Chris McLaughlin ,previously with St Anthonys and Rossvale.

“They all made impressive debuts against Maryhill but none more so than Dailly who couldn’t have made a better start to filling the boots of our phenomenal goalscorer of the past two seasons, Callum Graham who has earned a move to Pollok .

“Tight calf muscles kept me sidelined on Saturday but hopefully I can recover to get some much needed game time tonight after 7 months of  Covid hibernation..”

Last night saw yet  another of the WoSFL’s new kids on the  block, Harmony Row , receive a painful lesson of the playing standards needing to be attained at the higher level when going down to a heavy 12-1 defeat by Petershill.

Meanwhile, on the transfer front, comes word of Kilwinning Rangers winning the chase for the signature of ex-Beith striker Thomas Collins following his release by East Fife.

And another Premier Division outfit Cumnock are coming to terms with the departures of former Junior internationalist Paul Burns (retired) and experienced goalkeeper Ally Semple who has surprisingly elected to drop down  into the Conference Leagues at Maybole.

PLAYING TONGHT: Maryhill v Irvine Vics (7PM), Ashfield v StPeters,Thorniewood Utd v AS Airdrie AFC.