Gary Gillespie will be 56 on July 5th. Gary’s is one of those players who at an early age seemed to be destined for great things but his Scotland career only amounted to thirteen caps and as a bit part player, generally playing when others were injured or unavailable.
And yet his career started well; at seventeen Gary was given the captaincy of Falkirk, by eighteen he was on the move to Coventry City. His first Under -21 cap came a few months after his eighteenth birthday in a friendly against USA at Pittodrie on October 17th, 1978. Andy Roxburgh was in charge of the team at this point and it would be him that would give Gary all his full caps too. Also in the team that day were future Scotland players Alex McLeish, Murdo MacLeod and Eamonn Bannon. The team won three – nil with goals from Murdo, Neil Orr of Morton and Partick Thistle’s Jim Melrose.
By the time of his first team cap at the age of 27 on October 14th 1987, Alex McLeish was on cap 48, Eamonn Bannon’s 11 cap career was over and Murdo MacLeod had gained 5 of his eventual 20 caps. Gary was paired alongside McLeish on that night against Belgium in a Euro Qualifier at Hampden, which the Scots won 2-0 with goals from McCoist and McStay.
Gary, by this time was a Liverpool player having probably spent too many years at Coventry, that possibly hindered his International progress. Gary would also play in the following game, a Euro qualifying match, as Scotland beat Bulgaria in Sofia with Gary MacKay scoring that famous goal that put ROI through to their first Finals.
Gary played in a goalless friendly against Spain in April the following year but with competition from McLeish, Miller and Gough opportunities were few. Gary played in only three of the qualifying games for Italia ’90. A 2-1 win away to Norway in September, 1988 and then the magnificent win against France at Hampden in March ’89, with Mo Jo supplying a deadly brace, that was followed by a 3-1 defeat away to Yugoslavia in Zagreb in September of ’89. Gary scored an own goal for the Slavs third with Liverpool teammate Stevie Nicol hitting their second. Stevie Nicol would repeat this feat in Scotland’s next game away to France. Having not seen those goals I can’t confirm whether they were more difficult than that gilt edged chance he had against Uruguay in Mexico 1986.
Gary then played in four of our World Cup warm ups; two of which saw home defeats to East Germany and Egypt followed by a home draw to Poland in which Gary sent a perfect lob over the goalkeeper to score. It’s just a pity it was Andy Goram. ( I will post video of that game today too.)
Gary didn’t start any of the games in the World Cup but he did get to replace Murdo in the third game against Brazil, after he had the ball blootered off him by Branco and ended up unconscious. Scotland lost a soft goal in 81st minute to Muller which saw us sent home again, too early.
Gary was called up again in November, 1990 for another game in Sofia against Bulgaria in a Euro Qualifier, which Scotland drew one all. Although Scotland had a successful campaign and qualified for the finals in Sweden, Gary was never picked again for his national team. All the best to Gary on his birthday.