Kevin Poole

Former Player Remembers: Kevin Poole (Part Two)

Last month, Kevin Poole, Leicester City’s goalkeeper from 1991 to 1997, met up with Club Historian John Hutchinson to remember his career in football.
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In part two of a wide-ranging interview, Kevin recalls leaving Filbert Street, his subsequent playing and coaching career and how he became the Football League’s oldest registered player at the age of 49.

Before he signed for Brian Little’s Leicester City in July 1991, he had made over 40 first team appearances for both Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, during which time he also had loan spells at Northampton Town and Hartlepool United.

He went on to describe his first five seasons at Filbert Street, playing for three managers: Little, Mark McGhee and Martin O’Neill. He recalled playing in the dramatic old First Division Play-Off Final for a place in the Premier League against Swindon Town in 1993, about winning the Club’s Player of the Year award the following season in the Premier League (1994/95), also being an ever-present in O’Neill’s team which unforgettably beat Crystal Palace in the 1996 Play-Off Final for a place back in the Premier League.

Having played in 53 out of 55 league and cup games in O’Neill’s promotion side and now back in the top flight, things looked good for Kevin but just before the new season started, O’Neill signed the USA international goalkeeper Kasey Keller from Millwall for an appearance-related £900,000 fee.

Reminded of this, Kevin continued: “Yes, that’s right. The Manager said that he wanted another goalkeeper and he brought Kasey in. It was difficult to adjust, having been first choice and having played all those games, and then coming in the next season and being second choice. It was difficult to take really.”

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Leicester City 1996/97

Leicester City's 1996/97 Premier League squad posing for the traditional pre-season photo at Filbert Street.

Kevin only made seven appearances that season and, early in the following season, in August 1997, he left Filbert Street.

“Martin did offer me a contract roll over,” Kevin continued. “But it was time for me to move on. I didn’t want to sit around and be second choice, so I went to Birmingham City. Trevor Francis was the manager. Unfortunately, I had two or three injuries so I didn’t play too many games that season.”

Despite his injuries, Kevin made over 50 first team appearances for Birmingham City, who reached three second tier Play-Off Semi-Finals during Kevin’s time at St. Andrew’s. In November 2001, Kevin switched to Bolton Wanderers who were newly promoted to the Premier League and managed by Sam Allardyce.

New team-mates included France international centre-back Bruno N’Gotty, who had played for AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille and who later was to play for Leicester City, Spain international centre-back Ivan Campo, who had played for Real Madrid, Nigeria international attacking midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha, who had played for Paris Saint-Germain and France international World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff, an attacking midfielder who had played for Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan.

“I was there for four seasons,” Kevin continued. “I think I was 38 when I went there. I knew that I was going in as no.2, because I was getting to my latter years. Sam wanted an experienced goalkeeper to put pressure on their no.1, the Finland international Jussi Jääskeläinen.

“Whits (Mike Whitlow), my old Leicester City team-mate, was there as well. In 2004, we reached the League Cup Final against my old club Middlesbrough at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. I’d played in most of the previous rounds but Sam brought in Jääskeläinen for the Final. We lost 2-1.”

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Kevin Poole

In action for Bolton Wanderers during a Premier League fixture at home to Everton back in November 2001.

By the time Kevin left Bolton in 2005, he was nearing his 42nd birthday. His next move was to Derby County in 2005 as a goalkeeping coach, though he soon found himself playing again, making his Derby County debut against Leicester City at Pride Park and going on to make five more league appearances for the Rams that season.

“Phil Brown had just been appointed Derby’s manager,” Kevin explained. “I knew him from my time at Bolton and when he got the Derby job, he took me there as a third-choice goalkeeper, but mainly as a goalkeeping coach.

“I’d started coaching when I was at Birmingham when the academy manager Brian Eastick was looking for a goalkeeper to coach in the academy. He asked me if I wanted to do this and, as I wasn’t playing at the time, I said I’d give it a go. So I started doing this and went on to do my badges. I really enjoyed it and I knew then that when I’d finished playing, I would want to carry on coaching.

“At Derby, they had two ’keepers, Lee Camp and Lee Grant. When Grant was injured and Camp was going through a bad time, Brownie decided to put me in for a few games and I made my debut against Leicester at Pride Park. I think it was a 1-1 draw.”

Later that season, Phil Brown was sacked and, after Billy Davies replaced him as manager, Derby released Kevin and he went to Burton Albion in 2006, who were managed by Nigel Clough, playing in the Conference (now the Vanarama National League).

Remarkably, at the age of 43, Kevin was an ever-present in league and cup matches in his first season at Burton and became the Player of the Season. The following season (2007/08), he was a key member of the Burton side which reached the Conference Play-Off Semi-Finals and was again a regular part of the side which won the title in 2008/09 to win a place in the Football League. He was also runner-up as the Brewers’ Player of the Year that season, at the age of 45.  

That season, I played again in the first team in November when I was 49.

Kevin Poole

During the title-winning season, Clough left to manage Derby County and the ex-Rams and England defender Roy McFarland became Burton’s caretaker manager for the rest of the season.

“Towards the end of the season, we went through a bad spell,” Kevin recalled. “We nearly lost the title, but we managed to pull it off in the last game of the season, away at Torquay, clinching the title on the last day.

“Then Paul Peschisolido became manager for the first season in League 2,” Kevin continued. “I knew him from my time at Birmingham. I mainly sat on the bench just in case I was needed. I concentrated on my coaching, but I did play six games in that first League 2 season.

“Then I signed a new contract for the 2010/11 season and made an appearance when I was 47 in a Football League Trophy match against Rotherham United (in October 2010). Paul Peschisolido was sacked (in March 2012) and I retired from playing (in April 2012) when I was the league’s oldest registered player at the age of 48. Then (ex-Leicester City player) Gary Rowett came in as manager.

“I knew him from when we were at Birmingham and we had played at Burton together too. I continued as a coach with Gary and then I was asked to re-register as a player (in October 2012) alongside my coaching role. There were injuries to our goalkeepers, so I went back and sat on the bench.

“At the beginning of the next season (in August 2013), we took Jordan Pickford on loan from Sunderland when he was 17. We had him for two or three months. You could tell he had something special even then and, to be fair, he has done really well since! That season, I played again in the first team in November when I was 49 (when Pickford was briefly recalled by Sunderland).”

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Kevin Poole

Part of the coaching team at Burton Albion, he also found himself playing for the Brewers.

Asked how he kept fit and motivated as the league’s oldest player alongside his coaching role, Kevin explained: “I still trained. I didn’t do as much as I did in my younger days, but I still did a little bit just to keep ticking over. I also made sure I ate the right stuff and little things like that. My motivation was still there. I still loved playing and being involved. You can’t beat that!”

In October 2014, with Burton near the top of League 2, Rowett left Burton and was appointed as manager of Championship side Birmingham City.

“When Gary got the Birmingham job, he took his Burton coaching staff with him, including me as goalkeeping coach, and two years later, when Gary became manager of Derby County (in March 2017), we all went with him too. At the end of the following season (May 2018), Gary became manager at Stoke City, he couldn’t take all of his coaching staff with him and I ended up doing some coaching at Kidderminster Harriers.

“I’m now at Solihull Moors in the National League. It’s a relatively new club. It was formed in 2007 when two clubs merged, Solihull Borough and Moor Green. In 2022, we got to the Play-Off Final for a place in League 2 but we lost to Grimsby Town after extra-time.

“We didn’t have such a good season last year but this year we’re doing okay. We’re third at the moment. There’s only one automatic promotion place from the National League. I think there should be two. There’s not much difference in standard between the teams in our league and teams in League 2.”

Kevin concluded by saying: “I still come to Leicester City games when I can. My son does too. He loves it. I was playing for Leicester when he was young and it’s the only club he supports.”

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