By JAMES FRIEL, SPORTS EDITOR
PLAYERS aged 33 going on 34 in football are always just one bad game away from being branded over the hill.
But anyone levelling that accusation at Paul McGrillen would have a hard time arguing with the facts.
This season has been the Stenhousemuir striker's most prolific ever in senior football.
He's hit 16 goals in all competitions and, with 12 league games still to come, is well on course to break the 20 mark – a benchmark for all forwards.
That form earned him another year at the club, an offer he was only too happy to accept.
He said: "You could wait until the summer and join the rat race to see if you can get something. You're chasing your tail and they might take the offer off the table.
"At the end of the day I was happy to sign. Things are going well and you might as well stay with the devil you know!"
McGrillen must qualify for the 'man of many clubs' tag attached to senior pros. In his time he's had spells with Motherwell, Falkirk, Airdrie, East Fife, Stirling Albion, Partick Thistle, Clydebank before, after a spell at Bellshill Juniors, turning up at Ochilview.
He's proved there is life after dropping out of the senior game.
"I probably wouldn't have gone to Bellshill if it hadn't been for Tommy Coyne and Rab McKinnon who I worked with at Motherwell," he said. "I enjoyed it but I wanted to get back playing professionally. I think your age doesn't really matter if you look after yourself and keep yourself fit.
"There have been a few ups and downs this season. From a selfish point of view it's probably worked out quite well for me but we're disappointed not to be up challenging. We've not had the consistency.
"It's nice to get my best ever goal tally but you'd be looking for promotion with that.
We need a lot more people in double figures. At the start of the season we beat two teams 6-0 back to back and expected to go on a roll but were brought down to earth.
"The bosses have their ideas on who to bring in and they know where we have to strengthen. If we can add some quality here and there we can challenge because there isn't a lot between most of the teams. It's a hard league to get out of but if you don't leak goals you'll have a good chance."
Stenhousemuir fans might not like to be reminded, but the man known as Mowgli is probably best remembered for his winning goal for Falkirk against Celtic in the 1997 Scottish Cup semi-final.
That team is being reassembled as part of Scott MacKenzie's testimonial match on March 25 and McGrillen's looking forward to some reminiscing.
He said: "I'm looking forward to seeing everybody. I was winding up Alex Totten, asking him if he's going to be wearing his kilt. I meet some of them sometimes but it'll be the first time we've really met up since then.
"I remember '97 as if it was yesterday. That season we'd faced liquidation and all the boys had taken wage cuts.
To beat Celtic and get to the final was amazing and the final was a great day."