RECORD-chasing Neil Austin will be banging on Neale Cooper’s door should the Hartlepool United manager choose to shuffle his pack in the final two matches of the season.
The defender, who turns 29 tomorrow, is on the cusp of making club history as the first outfield player in recent times to complete every minute of every game during an entire campaign.
A couple of distinguished names have gone close – Ritchie Humphreys missed 27 minutes in 2005/06 and just 12 minutes two years earlier.
While Chris Westwood completed every league match in 2000/01 and 2002/03 but missed some Football League Trophy action in both of those seasons.
Austin, though, has been there for every kick since August 6, and that amounts to an incredible 4,230 minutes of football.
And the vice-captain admits he’s not altogether comfortable with Cooper’s plans to rotate as the season draws to a close.
“There’s two matches left and hopefully the gaffer will keep me in the team,” Austin told SportMail ahead of Saturday’s final home game against Leyton Orient.
“I don’t know if he’s going to experiment with the team with a few of the kids.
“It’s a good opportunity for the manager to see what the young lads are about because we’re safe now.
“But I’ll be the first one knocking on his door if I’m not in that team shape on Friday.”
He went on: “It’ll be a proud achievement and it’s even more pleasing now we’ve realised no outfield player has done it.
“Scott (Flinders) has, but he’s a keeper, it’s a bigger achievement for me!
“I’ve never done it at any time in my career because I’ve usually had at least one injury which has put me out for a few weeks.
“So, touch wood, I stay in the team and stay injury free.”
Incidentally, Austin has not missed a minute of action since he married wife, Claire last summer.
And he added: “I mentioned that to her and she was quite pleased.
“She put it down to her cooking but I’m not so sure.
“Maybe married life just suits me.
“But I’m 29 tomorrow as well and hopefully it’s just a case of getting stronger and fitter as I get older.”
Austin has revealed that several of his team-mates are aware of his record pursuit.
But he insists none of them will be easing up on him on the training field.
“A few of the lads are aware of it,” he said.
“They haven’t been going easy on me in training, because, to be fair, I don’t go easy on them.”