Gary Gillespie

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For the Northern Irish television presenter and journalist, see Gary Gillespie (presenter).
Gary Gillespie
Personal information
Full name Gary Thompson Gillespie
Date of birth (1960-07-05) 5 July 1960 (age 54)
Place of birth Stirling, Scotland
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1977–1978 Falkirk 22 (0)
1978–1983 Coventry City 172 (6)
1983–1991 Liverpool 156 (14)
1991–1994 Celtic 69 (2)
1994–1997 Coventry City 3 (0)
Total 422 (22)
National team
1978–1982 Scotland Under-21[1] 8 (1)
1987–1991 Scotland 13 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Gary Thompson Gillespie (born 5 July 1960) is a Scottish former professional football defender who played for Liverpool through much of their dominant period of the 1980s.

Early career[edit]

Gillespie started his career at local club Falkirk, captaining the side at 17, making him the world's youngest ever first team captain in professional football. Such was his rapid progression as a player, only playing 22 Scottish League Second Division fixtures, he was purchased by Coventry City for the bargain price of £75,000 on 10 March 1978 while still not quite 18.

He spent the rest of the 1977/78 season in the City reserves but was given his chance at the beginning of the following season making his debut on 19 August '78 in a 2–1 win over Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park, he went on to make a further 14 league appearances before the end of the season.

A lot of admirers courted Gillespie's skills and attributes as a player, especially as he was a player who was involved in numerous, successful, relegation battles with Coventry for six seasons, he ultimately got his big move and it was Liverpool that got his signature on 8 July 1983 for £325,000. He was the first signing to be made by new manager Joe Fagan.

Liverpool[edit]

Gillespie took a while to settle in, mainly because world-class defenders Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen were ahead of him, but eventually he got into the team, making his debut on 7 April 1984 in the 2–2 League Cup draw with Walsall at Anfield, he became a regular during the 1986–87 season. He had played 14 times in the 1985–86 season, however, scoring three league goals, as the Reds sealed the double of the league title and the FA Cup, beating their local rivals Everton into second place and also defeating them 3–1 in the Wembley final. Gillespie did play enough games to warrant a league title winner's medal, but did not make the squad for the FA Cup final.

His first goal had come on 20 April in the 3–1 league win over Newcastle United at Anfield. He remained a mainstay and was part of the side which won the "double" of League championship and FA Cup in 1986, though he missed out on a place in the FA Cup final at a time when only one substitute was permitted.

His three goals in that double winning season all came in the same game. Hat-tricks have always been rare for defenders, but Gillespie managed one against Birmingham City on 26 April 1986 at Anfield, he scored a brace from open play and completed the threesome with a penalty after the Liverpool fans chanted his name when it was awarded – normally he would not have taken it. Liverpool won the game 5–0 against an already relegated side, as they moved closer to title glory (which was sealed on the final day of the season with a 1–0 win at Chelsea).

Gillespie firmly established himself in the first team the following year, when he missed just three league games all season. By 1988, when he partnered Hansen in all bar five of Liverpool's games in the league, the Anfield club were a cut above every other side, losing just twice and coasting to the title. Gillespie weighed in with his share of goals too, including one in the famous 5–0 hammering of Nottingham Forest, which critics, including the great Tom Finney, describe to this day as the finest domestic performance by any English club.

A week before Liverpool were scheduled to face Wimbledon in the FA Cup final to try to secure their second "double", Gillespie and teammate Nigel Spackman clashed heads when leaping for the same ball in a league game against Derby County. Both suffered deep cuts, but were deemed fit for the game at Wembley and were each given customised protective bandages with red and white stripes to wear during the game. Gillespie was regarded as one of Liverpool's better players on the day. BBC summariser Jimmy Hill said: "Gillespie's been brilliant, headband or not," but Liverpool surprisingly lost 1–0.

In April 1989, Gillespie joined his teammates in mourning the death of 94 Liverpool fans (the final death toll was 96) at the Hillsborough disaster, during a year in which he again was a regular feature in the team. This time fortunes were reversed – Liverpool won the FA Cup with an emotional victory over fierce Merseyside rivals Everton, but lost the League title to Arsenal with pretty much the last kick of the season. Gillespie missed that game, however.

Gillespie won another league title with Liverpool in 1990, though his appearances record was diminishing, owing to the arrival of Swedish defender Glenn Hysen at Anfield. However, he still managed four goals from a mere 13 league games.

In 1990–91, with the absence and eventual retirement of Alan Hansen due to injury, Gillespie was once again a regular in the centre of the Anfield defence. He played 30 league games and scored once, remaining a regular player even after the resignation of Kenny Dalglish as manager on 22 February 1991 – after which he was succeeded by Graeme Souness.

Celtic[edit]

However, the arrival of Mark Wright during the close season made it clear that Gillespie would no longer be considered a first choice defender at Anfield, and so he was transferred to Celtic, the Scottish league giants, for £925,000 on 15 August 1991. He was among manager Liam Brady's first signings for the Bhoys, who were being left behind by local rivals Rangers who had been champions for the previous three seasons.[3]

His debut for the Glasgow club came on 17 August 1991, in a 4–1 league win over his former side Falkirk at Parkhead. Gillespie also managed to find the back of the net. He made 67 appearances for the Parkhead club over three years, playing 69 league games and scoring twice, but failed to pick up any silverware.

Coventry City and retirement[edit]

Soon after the appointment of Tommy Burns as Celtic manager in 1994, it became apparent that Gillespie was not part of the new manager's plans. On 23 August 1994 he returned to Coventry City on a free transfer, making three Premier League appearances during the 1994–95 season. However, he played just three FA Premier League games before a knee injury struck him down,[2] and he finally retired from playing in 1997 after more than two years out of action.[3]

Gillespie won 13 caps for Scotland. Andy Roxburgh gave him his debut on 14 October 1987 in the 2–0 UEFA European Championship qualifier victory over Belgium at Hampden Park. He was selected for the squad that went to the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, but his only appearance came on 20 June against Brazil at the Stadio delle Alpi Turin, a game the Scots lost 1–0. They failed to progress past the group stages.

Since retirement Gillespie has served regularly as an expert summariser for Liverpool matches on BBC Radio Merseyside and is a regular member of the commentary team for Liverpool games on the official Liverpool FC TV channel LFC TV. He also continues to represent Liverpool in their veterans' side.

Gillespie is still held in high regard among the Anfield faithful, who voted him No.68 in the 2006 poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop compiled by the official Liverpool Football Club website.

Honours[edit]

Liverpool

References[edit]

External links[edit]