Joe Lewis on why he hasn't spoken to his agent in years, his Champions League hopes and the wonder of Allan McGregor
With four clean sheets in his last five appearances, it’s little wonder Joe Lewis seems so happy where he is.
On top of this, he’s at a club that values him and he is playing for supporters who regard him as more than worthy of following the likes of Jim Leighton and Theo Snelders in a noble tradition of fine Pittodrie goalkeepers.
“I haven’t spoken to my agent in years!” the 33-year-old from Bury St Edmonds says. “Not about anything meaningful, anyway.”
Contracted to Aberdeen until 2024, there’s no rush. Lewis seems perfectly content where he is. Asked whether he would like to stay at the club for the rest of his career, he replies: “Ideally, yes.” He hasn’t always felt so wanted or as settled but he’s coming up for five years now at Aberdeen, and, having been there, done that when it comes to England, not always in the happiest environments, the lure of a move back down south does not necessarily appeal the way it might otherwise have done.
Besides Aberdeen, in the midst of a pandemic, seem as stable a club as any other right now. He is grateful for the security – and the playing time – he has found at Pittodrie since signing in June 2016 from Cardiff City after a slightly peripatetic career.
“I've been at a few (clubs) in my career, too many really, that aren't well run and don't have everyone from top to bottom pulling in the same direction,” he says. “You can see from the outside, and you can feel it as a player, that everyone wants the same for Aberdeen.
"There are no agendas or anything. There are no selfish ulterior motives. Everyone just wants the best for the team and to have success on the pitch, which is what a club is for.
"We have a lot of supporters at the club and everyone at the training ground and Pittodrie is desperate for us to do well. It feels like it's a team effort at Aberdeen and it gives you confidence when you know everyone is doing their best for you.
"That's important because I haven't always felt like that at my previous clubs, where there has been infighting and a lack of cohesion. I also found my form here after not playing enough football for a spell. I had played at Blackpool on loan but didn't enjoy it. I played a few games for Fulham but found a new lease of life at Aberdeen.
“Financially, you can look for more money somewhere else and a lot of players do that in their careers. I have no problem with people trying to make as much as they can but there’s more to it as well.”
There’s no saying how long Lewis can keep going at Aberdeen. One needs only look at his opposite number this afternoon when Aberdeen host Rangers, to know that he might even have his best years ahead of him. Now 38, Allan McGregor could end this season with another Scottish title medal and talk is already turning to his next contract at Ibrox, which would take him into his 40s.
Lewis is an admirer. “He's been fantastic and he was a huge part of their win last week against Celtic. It's good to see goalkeepers get the plaudits when you make contributions like that.
“Mid-to-late thirties can be a keeper's pomp,” he adds. “It varies for different goalkeepers. For me personally, I feel like I'm better with more experience. At 33, I need to maintain fitness and flexibility. I need to work hard in the gym and not stop for too long.
“The older you get, if you have a week of doing nothing – the harder it is to get going again. I need to keep moving, I don't have many days off. We had a couple of days there where there was optional training and I did a bit at home to keep myself going.
“Staying fit is my main aim and if you can keep the reactions – and eyesight! – the older you get then experience is a big part of goalkeeping.”
Lewis and his teammates are certainly permitted to have their sights trained on finishing second this season, which would bring with it a Champions League qualifying place. A win today would take Aberdeen to within a point of Celtic, who will have played two fewer games.
Aberdeen might never have a better chance to reach at least the preliminary rounds of the Champions League, a tournament they haven’t featured in since it was the European Cup, in the 1985-86 season under Alex Ferguson. They were knocked out in the quarter-finals by IFK Gothenburg on away goals.
“I'm not going to rule out finishing second – that would be silly from the position we're in,” says Lewis. “I don't want to target specific teams, we'll just take it game by game. Our focus right now is on Sunday. We're halfway through and the season is taking shape.
“But it has to be a target for us to finish as high up the league as possible. And second place is still certainly achievable. We're not going to write that off, that's for sure.
“A Champions League spot for second place is certainly a carrot. And third place gets you further into the Europa League than previous seasons. So that's there for the teams in and around there and second place is definitely there for us – if we can put a good run together and get results.
“But the teams around us like Celtic and Hibs will be thinking the exact same thing. They'll be fighting us for it.
“Look at the run Livingston are on right now, so you can't write off anyone. We aren't singling out teams to try and catch but second place is certainly up for grabs.”
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