Twenty two years ago, as a Manchester United fan celebrating the news that we had signed prolific goal scorer Andrew Cole from Newcastle United, there was also a big disappointment from myself that we had allowed Keith Gillespie to join Newcastle as part of the deal.
I had been following Keith’s career for a number of years, along with his team mates from that 1992 FA Youth Cup winning squad. I had been at his 1st team debut when he scored against Bury in the FA Cup in 1993, at his League Debut away at Sheffield Wednesday in 1994 and at the Newcastle United home match when he scored against them in 1994. Keith and other young players were starting to get their chances in the first team in that 1994-95 Season, which was so pleasing to see. Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan certainly recognised what a talented youngster Gillespie was and would not let the Cole transfer go through, unless he got Gillespie in return. The proof of what a great deal Keegan got was seen when Alex Ferguson would later try and sign back Gillespie for a much bigger transfer fee, which was immediately turned down by Newcastle.
After he left Manchester United I continued to follow Gillespie’s career in football and wanted him to do well, which he did spending a number of seasons at Newcastle, then at teams like Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield United, whilst representing Northern Ireland over 80 times. Unfortunately for Keith, the British tabloid press also took a big interest in him, especially his private life and in particular his gambling. As a result, Keith is likely to be remembered by most people for two reasons – a decent footballer and a gambler.
When I heard that Keith was going to be writing his autobiography, I looked forward to reading this. Having now read the book, I can honestly say that it is one of the best sporting autobiographies that I have read. Throughout the book Keith did not hold back telling the story of his life up until now. There were many highs in both his football and personal life, accompanied by a lot of real lows in both his football and personal life as well. Having read about some of these in the British press, it was good to see Keith putting his views of everything across, in particular the lows in his life. His honesty and openness about his gambling, in particular, was pleasing to see. He was equally honest about his playing career, team mates, managers and coaches that he worked alongside in the book. Other things like what he was falsely accused of in La Manga and the really bad financial advice he received as a player are covered in detail in the book and make for an interesting read. The title of the book is perfect when describing the lows in Keith’s life. However, he should also be remembered for all the great things he achieved in his playing career and Keith should be proud of this, especially now he has retired from playing.
I would definitely recommend this book to all sports fans, not just the supporters of the teams that Keith played for. I would also certainly recommend the book to young professional sportsmen as well, who are starting out in the game. It was good to read at the end of the book that Keith had worked through the more difficult phases in his life and was positive about the future. He deserves to be.
Since Keith has retired from playing amongst the things that he has been doing, like media work, is after dinner speaking. I would love to attend one of Keith’s speeches, if it is anything like what he wrote in his book it will be a fascinating listen.