Keeper hopes he is coming into his prime
Carl Ikeme is confident he is now coming into his goalkeeping prime.
The long-serving Wolves keeper, who turns 30 next month, recovered well after losing his place early last season to start the final 31 games of the campaign and hold off the challenge of Arsenal loanee Emi Martinez.
Should he remain fit and in-form, the challenge next season could be to join the select group of Wolves players boasting 200 senior appearances, and one of his predecessors Matt Murray, in a recent column for Wolves’ Official Website, believes the Nigerian international is heading into his prime.
“I feel good but I still feel there is more to come – and I feel like that every year,” says Ikeme.
“It is probably about right what Matt is saying, I hope!
“It was only really at the end of the season that I looked back and reflected on everything and felt like I hadn’t done too badly.
“I felt in good form and maybe as good as I have ever been.
“I’m 29 now and have the maturity that comes with goalkeepers at this age.
“We don’t have the physicality issues that an outfield player has so you get to this age and are as fit as you have ever been.
“I have been fortunate to have played a lot of games and that brings you experience.
“Maybe it’s 29 to 34 or 35 that can be considered a goalkeeper’s prime because you are still fit enough and you have that experience.
“Hopefully I can carry on playing, I’d love to keep going until I was 40 to be honest!
“I would like to think I keep myself in good shape at all times and I love playing football.
“I’ve got a couple of games for Nigeria over the next week and after that it won’t be long before I start thinking about next season.”
Of his 34 league appearances last season, ten saw Ikeme keep clean sheets, including four in succession at Molineux during the final weeks of the campaign.
And that would have been five but for a harsh penalty conceded by Matt Doherty in the last minute of the final day victory against play-off finalists Sheffield Wednesday.
“After we’d kept the four clean sheets in a row at home it was annoying to concede so late on against Sheffield Wednesday and I thought the penalty was a harsh decision,” says Ikeme.
“As a goalkeeper and a defence you pride yourself on clean sheets so we were happy with the four in a row at home but obviously we all want to win games.
“It might be selfish on my part wanting a clean sheet and so I would rather take the 2-1 against Sheffield Wednesday than the four 0-0 draws.”
Ikeme has previously admitted it was tough to lose his place for effectively the first time for some considerable time as Martinez came in to challenge.
But he believes staying focused and professional was key to being able to grasp a fresh opportunity when it arose, and he came on a hero’s reception against Burnley at Molineux.
“It was a slow start for me and I got dropped from the team and didn’t play as much as I would have liked at the start of the season,” he said.
“I just carried on training well and working hard and came through and made over 30 appearances in the end so it didn’t work out too badly.
“I knew when I got back in I would have to keep my standards high especially after Emi was fit because he is a very good young goalkeeper.
“It’s always good to train with different keepers and Emi had come from Arsenal and is a great lad.
“But while you are working with other keepers it is also about yourself and focusing and concentrating on being the best you can be.
“It’s not about feeling under pressure but doing everything I can not only to maintain my standards but keep improving.
“It is about staying focused and professional which I feel I have done all season and even when I wasn’t in the team I was still doing the same things.”
Another feature of the final day win against Sheffield Wednesday was the excellent atmosphere generated by the Wolves fans, at the end of a challenging season.
It was an environment which Ikeme relished, and one which he feels the players need to help inspire again when returning to action in August.
“It was a great atmosphere on the last day of the season and is something we want to generate going into next season,” he said.
“It has been a tough season in many aspects but we want to come back next season and have a good year and create that atmosphere on a regular basis.
“When the fans get behind you like that it really does lift you and it lifted our performance on the last day.
“That is something we need to work on as a team and as a club to make sure we get the fans excited again and looking forward to coming to watch games.
“There is a basis of a good, young team here.
“We probably need just a few more players to help the group and we won’t be far away.
“It is probably an important summer for the club and hopefully we can come back and head into next season and try and kick on.
“There is the basis of a good squad here and hopefully we can just tidy things up a bit and push on.”
I would like to think I keep myself in good shape at all times and I love playing football