Stephen Bywater may have made his League debut last century, but Nigel Clough believes the Burton Albion goalkeeper is reaching his peak right now.
Bywater has confirmed his spot as the Brewers' first-choice keeper since replacing an injured Jon McLaughlin during the final push for survival last season.
The 36-year-old has produced a string of consistent performances, despite Albion's lack of positive results, including several superb reaction saves to keep them in contention late in last Saturday's 2-1 loss to Preston North End.
He has missed only two Championship games this campaign for personal reasons, and his quality shot-stopping has kept him ahead of promising Middlesbrough loanee Connor Ripley in Clough's pecking order.
"It has had nothing at all to do with Connor," said the Brewers boss on Bywater's continued starting spot in goal for Burton.
"The only reason Connor came in for a couple of games (the home defeats to Ipswich Town and Barnsley in October) was that Stephen lost his dad and we wanted to give him a break.
"But I think Stephen has been our most consistent player this season.
"He's made one error against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and apart from that, he's made some very good saves."
Bywater is well into double figures for clubs in his career, having made his senior league debut on loan at Wycombe Wanderers in September 1999.
Having originally joined Albion in January 2016, the former Derby County man signed a new deal with the Brewers in October that will keep him at the Pirelli Stadium until the summer of 2019.
And in Clough's eyes, the experienced stopper - who should be back from illness for tomorrow's trip to Bolton Wanderers - is benefiting from the ongoing work he puts in away from the pitch.
"Goalkeepers always mature that little bit later," added the Albion boss.
"You'd say an outfield player is at his peak in his mid-to-late 20s.
"I think a goalkeeper's is early 30s, and I think Stephen now, at 36, is probably at his peak.
"He's in as good a shape physically, he does all his yoga and stretching and things like that.
"What you're seeing on the pitch is an agility that belies his age.
"I just think that, mentally and physically, he's probably at his peak now."