AS someone rapidly approaching his free bus pass I'm delighted to see fellow veterans Ron Atkinson and Billy Dearden back in the game.

When it comes to enthusiasm I've never known anyone quite like Big Ron.

He'll sit up all night talking football, dreaming up impossible trivia questions, arguing the merits of just about everyone involved in the game from managers to coaches, players to pundits - and he knows them all.

Ron paid a heavy price for one indiscretion and he's been big enough to admit it and go back to his roots at Kettering, where he took his first step on the managerial ladder. He's 68 next month with a love of football that has never diminished.

You could say the same about Bill - except that he's a mere stripling due to celebrate his 63rd birthday in 10 days time.

A fine goalscorer for Sheffield United in the Alan Woodward, Trevor Hockey, Tony Currie era, Bill was then No2 to John Rudge for many a long and successful year at Port Vale before venturing into management himself.

He's plied his trade in the lower divisions and now they've asked him to go back to Mansfield with a remit of keeping them in the Football League. Jim Smith didn't quite manage that at Oxford, I hope Bill does, and I hope Alan Buckley does too at Grimsby - another old warhorse who can't stay away.

It was encouraging to see Millwall plump for 54-year-old Willie Donachie when they needed stabilising - age should not be a barrier in football - just look at Bobby Robson!

The likes of Ferguson, Stein and Shankly got better as they got older - let that be a lesson to those who want to write us wrinklies off before we're ready to go.