Gillespie makes football history

An interview that was published in Shoot! in 1978.

At 17, Gary Gillespie made football history by becoming the youngest player to captain a Scottish League team. He also had the shock of his short life when he realised what a wanted man he was. Gillespie was leading Falkirk in the Scottish second division and attracting rave notices with his cool, calculating approach to the game. Scouts South of the border flocked to watch the stylish centre-half. Falkirk, needing money, agreed to sell him and Gillespie was in the fortunate position to choose his new employers. He spent a week at Coventry City – and was sold on the place. Gordon Milne parted with £45,000 and agreed to pay another £30,000 when Gillespie had played ten first team games.

Unfortunately after just five reserve team matches last season Gillespie tore knee ligaments at Everton, and now he faces a fight to get fit for the new term. "It can’t come soon enough for me", he says. "I made the right decision, Coventry are a great club, and apart from the injury, everything has been very enjoyable."

There is no doubt that Gillespie has enormous potential. "He can become a great player,", says Gordon Milne. "The lad has such mature head. Obviously he has a lot to learn about our game, but the potential is incredibly exciting."

For a 17-year-old the size of Gillespie’s fee is remarkable. At that age most youngsters are dreaming about turning professional. But the fee does not worry Gillespie: "It gave me a lot of confidence. I was flattered to think that Coventry were prepared to pay so much for me."

It was that competent attitude that persuaded Falkirk boss Brian Little to appoint Gillespie captain. His original choice was Mark Clougherty. He lost his form, was dropped and later sold to Clyde, and Gillespie took over.

"I wasn’t overawed," he says. "More surprised. I never had any problems with the players. They accepted me and a rollicking if they needed one!"

But it’s all changed now. Gillespie is a small fish in a very big pool, learning, enjoying himself. The name – Gary Gillespie – is one to watch out for.

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