Sign in or
|G | Player Pics | A-Z of Players|
PersonalFullname: Gary Thomson Gillespie
aka: Gary Gillespie
Born: 5 July 1960
Birthplace: Bonnybridge, Scotland
Signed: 15 August 1991
Left: 28 August 1994
Position: Defender/Central Defender
First game: Falkirk 4-1 home 17 August 1991 league
Last game: Hibernian 1-3 away 17 April 1993 league
First goal: Falkirk 4-1 home 17 August 1991 league
Last goal: Falkirk 3-2 home 21 November 1992 league
International Caps 13
International Goals 0
BiogScotland international Gary Gillespie was signed from Liverpool in August 1991 as the supposed answer to Celtic’s defensive frailties. The question is just what was Brady thinking?
On paper, the tall Bonnybridge-born centre-half (and said to be Rangers-daft as a youngster) had a wealth of experience from his time with the Anfield club and had been no stranger to silverware during his time on Merseyside. A (supposedly) cultured, ball playing defender the former Falkirk and Coventry man, at a cost of £925,000, was a relatively high profile and big money signing for the Bhoys. Some thought we'd got a good buy but it was obvious to many it was paying over the odds highlighting our desperation and financial incompetence.
The 31-year old was injury prone and coming towards the end of a career. For all his undoubted qualities on the ball from the off, Celtic supporters were wondering if Gillespie could really provide the steel needed in defence, and he was poor.
He got off to a good start with a goal on his competitive debut as Celtic defeated his old club Falkirk 4-1 in a league clash at Parkhead on August 17th. Not helped by playing in a Celtic side far removed from the quality he was used to on Merseyside things were never to get any better for Gary.
His playing style too often looked casual rather than cultured and niggling injuries seemed to blight him on a frequent basis. He was simply way past his best. At his peak he was rated highly as a player with Liverpool and in a survey amongst Liverpool fans was ranked amongst their best 100 players of all time. On the other hand he was injured too often and played far fewer matches than he should have.
In a more robust and resilient side than the Celtic of the early 1990s a peak-form Gary Gillespie would undoubtedly be an asset. However in a side with a defensive spine as robust as candy floss an over the hill Gary Gillespie was simply not the answer and (unsubstantiated) rumours of a £3,000-a-week contract also did little to win over a sceptical support.
In truth he was a huge liability, sluggish and ponderous, he was a big money flop and really if it was not for Tony Cascarino's flop transfer as a major purchase then Gillespie's name would be mentioned more often. In various games he lost us silly points by not doing the basics, with various apologists trying to claim that he was just too cultured for the Scottish game. Nonsense. On the other hand, he wasn't culpable alone, the rest of the defence was hardly much better. The fact we'd overpaid so much for him partly was a monkey on his back when analysing his time at Celtic.
Two results mostly stand out, one was a game where late on we were struggling to hold onto a 2-1 win at home to Motherwell, and with the ball at his feet, Gillespie could have punted the ball out of the pitch, but he didn't. Motherwell easily stole it and grabbed an undeserved equalizer! The lowest was a humiliating 4-2 defeat by Rangers in a New Years Derby match, which saw us go down 2-0 in the first few minutes and 3-0 down within half an hour of the game. Gary was as culpable as anyone in the defence that day, if not more so.
Gary was released by Celtic – who were struggling on the pitch and the balance sheet following the "Sack the Board" turmoil – in May 1994.
Regardless of his disappointing stint at the club, we wish him the best.
|Club||From||To||Fee||League|| Scottish/ |
|Coventry||28/08/1994||31/05/1997||Free||2 (1)||0||0 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||0 (0)||0|
|Celtic||15/08/1991||28/08/1994||£ 925,000||67 (2)||2||4 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||6 (0)||0|
|Liverpool||08/07/1983||15/08/1991||£ 325,000||152 (4)||14||22 (2)||0||22 (0)||2||8 (2)||0|
|Coventry||10/03/1978||08/07/1983||£ 75,000||171 (1)||6||13 (0)||0||16 (0)||0||0 (0)||0|
|Falkirk||01/08/1977||10/03/1978||Junior||22 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||0 (0)||0|
Honours with Celticnone (the barren years)
The Bhoy in the Pictureby St Anthony (link)
In the summer of 1991 the Celtic board appointed Liam Brady as their new manager and gave him the biggest war chest that a Celtic manager ever had up until that time. Criticised heavily in the early 1990’s for failing to keep up with the Rangers juggernaut under Graeme Souness, the under pressure board put themselves at the mercy of Brady’s judgement in the transfer market. The irony is that when Souness moved to Liverpool as manager in the spring of 1991 he was keen to make his mark by moving players in and out. Newspapers carried the story that Celtic were chasing three Liverpool players – Gary Gillespie, Ray Houghton and Peter Beardsley. Sadly, as it happened, only one of those moves came to fruition and Gary Gillespie moved to Parkhead for a (then) huge fee of £925,000.
Celtic fans were impressed by the ambition of this move. Gillespie was a Scottish international and a hugely experienced player. He had captained Falkirk at the tender age of 18 and after a handful of games he had moved to Coventry City in 1978. At Brockville he had trained with the great George Connelly and it’s fair to say that Gillespie’s languid style was similar to Connelly’s. After a successful spell at Highfield Road he had earned a major move to Liverpool in 1983. He had a chequered spell at Anfield. Initially he had found it difficult to displace either Alan Hansen or Mark Lawrenson in the Liverpool defence, but showed great patience, and by 1985 he had earned a place in the team. In May 1985 he appeared in the fateful European Cup final in the Heysel stadium and he brought down the Polish international Boniek for the penalty that allowed Michel Platini to score the winner on that tragic night. The Liverpool team who won the league title in 1987/88 is generally regarded as one of the best English sides of all time. Gillespie played a major part amongst the greats of Beardsley, Barnes and Aldridge and he scored in the famous 5-0 rout of Nottingham Forest at Anfield in April 1988 when Tom Finney declared it as the greatest club performance he had ever seen.
Gillespie had been linked with Celtic several times up until that point. In 1978 Jock Stein was said to have been close to bidding for him and whenever Celtic where looking for a centre back then Gary’s name would invariably crop up. The added bonus to the rumours was that he was a boyhood Celtic fan and it was always felt that both Gillespie and Celtic would eventually hook up one day.
The initial reaction to Gillespie’s arrival at Parkhead was positive. It was felt that Brady had pulled a coup by obtaining him, and his technique and experience was seen as a major asset to Celtic. However some observers noted that Gillespie was 31 and had been injury prone in his latter years and that £925,000 would represent a major gamble.
Gary Gillespie made his debut on 17 August 1991 at Parkhead against Falkirk. Celtic won 4-1 with Tommy Coyne bagging a hat trick but the highlight of the game was a goal by Celtic’s new defender. On the stroke of half time he took a pass from Steve Fulton in the area, moved forward, drew the goalkeeper and rounded him, before slipping the ball into the net from a tight angle. It was an exquisite goal and one that would be recalled for some time.
After an initial good start under Brady things deteriorated for Celtic and Gillespie. His cultured style in defence did not suit the hurly-burly of the Scottish game where physical centre forwards rather than forwards with technique were the order of the day. In his Old Firm debut his ex Coventry team mate Mark Hateley had destroyed the Celtic defence who had looked totally uncomfortable with Hateley’s aggressive style.
For this reason Brady splashed out another one million ponds for the rugged Middlesbrough centre half Tony Mowbray. The hope was that Mowbray’s rough edged action style would compliment the classy play of Gillespie. Sadly, both of them rarely played together through injuries and they were never able to form the intended partnership.
Gillespie still left Celtic fans with some favourable memories. In February 1992 he went on a glorious run from defence down the left wing, beating four opponents and gained Celtic a corner. He was interviewed after the game and he stated that footballers should be able to improvise during the course of a game and if you get the ball on the left wing, even as a defender, you should be able to play as a winger.
In October 1993 he showed his class when Celtic defeated Rangers against the odds. He started Celtic attacks from defence and even though the game was typically rowdy the Celtic team stuck to their job and it was a delight to see Gillespie, McStay, Collins and Nicholas give such a great display of passing football. Brian O’Neil’s last gasp winner was the icing on the cake. Days later he showed his experience to great effect when Celtic beat a Luis Figo/Jorge Cadete inspired Sporting Lisbon was beaten 1-0 at Celtic Park on a night that Celtic weathered tremendous pressure during the 90 minutes.
Gillespie was given a free transfer by Lou Macari in the summer of 1994. His cultured style was never going to sit easy with wee Louie’s team of runners and, in truth, Gary’s Celtic career had rather fizzled out.
Gary Gillespie was a class act and on his day was as good as any Celtic defender in the modern era. He had a football pedigree few can match and it is a huge regret that the big man could not have played at a better time in Celtic’s history when his talents would have been more noticeable and more appreciated.
Latest page update: made by joebloggscity
, Mar 1 2013, 4:40 AM EST
(about this update
About This Update
Edited by joebloggscity
6 words added
1 image added
1 image deleted
- complete history)
More Info: links to this page