Ian Evatt has revealed the extra lengths Alex Baptiste has gone to in order to prepare for life in League One.
The 35-year-old defender – nearly two decades a professional with the likes of Mansfield, Preston and Middlesbrough – is poised to return to the squad for AFC Wimbledon after sitting out the midweek Carabao Cup win against Barnsley.
Baptiste scored a stoppage time equaliser on the opening weekend to snatch a point back from MK Dons, and like several of his team-mates this summer had his pre-season interrupted by Covid.
Despite being the oldest outfield player in the squad, Evatt says his former Blackpool team-mate was still showing the younger players how it is done when the players returned at the end of June.
“The Tuesday before he tested positive for Covid, which was on the Thursday, he had won all of our running tests in the summer,” Evatt said. “He is that fit.
“To have that level of fitness at that age is incredible. When players have done enough and they are heading back in, or into the gym, Baps is getting cones out and starts running himself to give himself an extra edge.
“That’s him trying to be the best he can be, and he knows that he isn’t getting any younger so he has to work that bit harder to keep up with the young guns, and he does it every day.”
Although he had scored the equalising goal on Saturday, Baptiste admitted he would be spending the weekend reflecting on a first-half mistake that almost let MK Dons in for a second goal.
In that instance, team-mate George Johnston got back to make a crucial goal-line clearance, and moments later Josh Sheehan had restored parity with a free-kick.
Evatt is not surprised that the error was still playing on Baptiste’s mind after the game.
“That is the mindset and a mentality. He is a perfectionist, like I am,” he said.
“Top players who have played at the highest level have that mentality where they don’t pat themselves on the back when they have done something good, they think about what they could have improved upon and done better.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Alex said that but he has shown so many times before that he’s like Benjamin Button, he just gets better with age.
“He has done fantastically well and he deserved to score on Saturday because to run from front to back at that stage of the game at 35 when he is probably fatigued, he got himself in there to create the opportunity.”