Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Keith Gillespie's autobiography a must-read for all football fans

Rover the moon: Keith Gillespie celebrates Blackburn Rovers' Worthington Cup win with Andy Cole

It was in the bowels of the magnificent Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Blackburn Rovers had just beaten Tottenham 2-1 in the 2002 League Cup final and out of the dressing room walked a beaming Keith Gillespie with a giant bottle of champagne in his hand.

Gillespie had enjoyed a fine game as Rovers triumphed in a lively decider and 'Bestie' as he was known was ready to party.

First though, an interview with The Belfast Telegraph.

And a good one it was too. Always was. Keith told it straight. No rubbish. Articulate, he was able to provide a fascinating insight into what was going on out on the football pitch or in the dressing room.

That's why I'm not surprised Keith's autobiography "How Not to be a Football Millionaire" is such an enjoyable and entertaining read.

There was plenty of material to work with in this tale of self destruction, but it still needed telling. Gillespie, with the help of Dublin-based journalist Daniel McDonnell, does an excellent job on that score.

There's all the football stories from his eventful career that you would expect, explained with honesty and humour, while he's also remarkably open about his private life.

Gillespie talks frankly about his gambling addiction which he reckons cost him a staggering £7 million, his complicated love life, the time he ended up in hospital when Alan Shearer decked him in Dublin and the harrowing experience of being in jail in La Manga after being falsely accused of rape.

His bankruptcy is discussed in detail. In the chapter outlining all his money problems, Keith delivers the classic line: "I never had a long term attitude to cash. In a battle between stocks and shares and the 1.30 at Pontefract there was only going to be one winner!"

Perhaps most telling of all is his revelation that he has an ongoing battle against depression. Yesterday, ahead of the launch of the book, he told me he hoped by going public he could help others with the same illness.

He admits to making many mistakes but is proud of his football career which saw him play for Manchester United, Newcastle and Blackburn Rovers as well as 86 times for Northern Ireland.

Incidentally, he describes that League Cup success for Rovers as one of the highlights of his life.

His views on big name managers Sir Alex Ferguson, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Bryan Robson and in particular Ruud Gullit, who he never took to, are sharply observed.

Another boss Kevin Blackwell is savaged.

Crusaders ace Colin Coates also takes some stick from Gillespie, reflecting on his Glentoran days when one of his heroes Alan McDonald brought him to the Irish League.

Northern Ireland fans may have been hoping for more on his international career but what there is is forthright and unlike other autobiographies does not always paint the subject in a good light.

Keith speaks about the wild nights out at the start of his career which included urinating on team-mate Phil Gray's leg in a hotel reception on an ill-fated tour to Canada in 1995, how he grew to understand Lawrie Sanchez's tactics after initially resenting him and his bitterness towards Nigel Worthington, who effectively ended his outstanding international career.

It's riveting stuff. Purchasing this book is no gamble.

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