Barmby still up for fight
It is 17 years since Nick Barmby took his Premier League bow and he is looking forward to this season as much as the first.
Last Updated: 03/08/09 2:15pm
After a remarkable renaissance last season, thoughts of retirement remain as far from Nick Barmby's mind as they were when he burst onto the scene as a teenager 17 years ago.
The top-level career of the former England star seemed over when he dropped down the leagues to join hometown club Hull City after the team of relegated Leeds broke up in 2004.
Yet Barmby, a teenage prodigy at Tottenham and a cup-winner with Liverpool in his prime, was joining a club with ambition.
Four years later the Tigers completed a dramatic decade-long rise from the Football League basement to the top flight and Barmby was at the heart of their success.
The energetic midfielder was not finished there either. It may have been some time since he played in the elite division but he looked like he had never been away as he steered the Tigers around the field in a dramatic survival season.
His efforts were good enough to secure a new one-year contract and, despite being 35, he has lost none of his youthful zest as he prepares for another campaign.
"I think it is 19 or 20 pre-seasons I've done now and I'm looking forward to this one even more because we have stayed in the Premier League," said Barmby.
"That was our main goal and now we have got a year's experience of it.
"Everyone knows the second year is even harder but these are the challenges we want at this football club. We are looking forward to it.
"I was very pleased to get another year, that was my main target at the start of last season.
"I was pleased with my form after Christmas. I was more consistent and my fitness was good.
"If my legs pack up I'd be the first to hold my hand up and then I'd call it a day.
"But at the minute I feel good, so I think you just carry on as long as you can - as long as the club still wants you as well."
Hull avoided relegation only on the final day of last season after an alarming slump in form.
The fearless Tigers made an instant impression by taking 20 points from their first nine games but then collected just 15 more from their final 29.
It was a near-catastrophic collapse and their survival ultimately had as much to do with Newcastle's abysmal failure to rouse themselves as their own ability to scrap it out.
Barmby, who maintained his form throughout the slide from third to 17th, believes the team will be stronger for that experience.
He said: "The aim again is Premier League football, we have got to keep in this league.
"Obviously we want to be better than fourth from bottom but the realistic goal is to stay in the Premier League.
"We gave away silly goals last year, like a minute or two before half-time, and we know we have got to score more goals and be more compact.
"But you learn from your experiences and the main thing is we are in the Premier League again."
Playing for Hull in what will only be their second season of top-flight football in 105 years represents the continuing fulfilment of a dream for Barmby.
"It's incredible," he said. "It's done everything for the city.
"There is a massive buzz about the place and everyone wants to see Hull City, their local club, in the Premier League.
"It's been a great journey for me since I came back in League One and I'm massively proud to have been a part of it."
Barmby's enthusiasm is infectious and whilst that never seems to wane, he is grateful for at least one change in his pre-season routine.
"Whereas before you used to run until you drop, now a lot more sports science is coming into the game," he said.
"I'm not saying there was not a lot of thinking before but there is a lot more now.
"There is not so much of the longer running - which is great for us older players!"