Belfast Telegraph

John Laverty: Keith Gillespie is Jose Mourinho's father and I'll bet you didn't read THAT in his memoirs

Gilly’s legacy: Keith Gillespie’s stunning display against Barcelona led to the big career break Jose Mourinho needed
Gilly’s legacy: Keith Gillespie’s stunning display against Barcelona led to the big career break Jose Mourinho needed
Jose Mourinho
John Laverty

By John Laverty

Finally got round to reading Keith Gillespie's autobiography 'How NOT To Be A Football Millionaire' over the Christmas break.

It's a fascinating account of life in the upper echelons of professional football with its eye-watering heights and equally perilous troughs.

Gilly experienced both, of course, and his book is a refreshingly self-deprecating look at a have-it-all, want-even-more, lost-it-all rollercoaster ride.

It also has one of those useful indexes at the back, where you can look up your own name to see how many times the author gives you a mention.

Naturally, this was the first thing I did after getting a copy of the former Northern Ireland star's memoirs a few years ago.

Nada. Rien. Niente. Nichts. Zilch. A whole 302 pages, and not a single, sodding mention.

Yet who was it who covered Gilly's remarkable career, meticulously, from the moment he first burst onto the scene as one of United's gilded 'Class of 92', scoring a terrific goal at Old Trafford against future employers Newcastle, and illuminating the international scene with that stunning volley in Vienna?

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I must have etched tens of thousands of words about the mercurial maestro during his halcyon days in the mid and late '90s - hell, it should have been me ghostwriting that book.

But had it been, I might have mentioned the episode in 1995 when I led Keith into a quiet corner of a foreign airport and warned him that The Sun were onto him about his gambling issues.

I suspect he didn't pay much heed; a few months later, the same tabloid splashed their front page with an exclusive about the jaw-dropping flutters regularly made by Northern Ireland's highest-paid and most bankable professional footballer.

Mind you, Jose Mourinho doesn't get a solitary mention in the book either - even though Gilly practically gave birth to The Special One.

The Jose we now know and have come to love/hate was conceived, so to speak, on the evening of September 17, 1997.

That was the date Gilly had the match of his life - an exhilarating performance misty-eyed Gallowgate diehards still talk about to this day.

It was Newcastle's Colombian striker Faustino Asprilla who monopolised the following morning's headlines with a hat-trick against Barcelona in an epic 3-2 Champions League win for Kenny Dalglish Magpies, but the man of the match award went to someone from closer to home.

Remember Gareth Bale's epic, career-defining destruction of Inter Milan's Brazilian 'defender' Maicon for Spurs at the San Siro in 2010? Well, Gilly had inflicted similar, humiliating torture on Barca's left-back Sergi 13 years earlier.

This was wing play the late, great Sir Stanley Matthews would have been proud of; a stunning reminder that, on his day, Gilly really could do the business at the highest level. He just didn't do it often enough.

Not as widely known at the time was irate Barcelona manager Louis van Gaal's reaction to that shock defeat on Tyneside - the 'shock' being that there'd been no mention whatsoever in the visitors' scouting report of the potential threat posed by the young Northern Ireland forward.

Van Gaal promptly sacked the hapless assistant who'd been tasked with producing the useless dossier.

His replacement? One Jose Mario dos Santos Mourinho Felix, an office cat from Portugal who'd been hanging around the Camp Nou doing menial tasks after losing his main job as former Barca manager Bobby Robson's translator.

"A humourless individual, but I'm told he's keen, observant and meticulous," Van Gaal supposedly said, adding: "Maybe it's time to give him a proper job here."

It's been well documented that, after cutting his managerial teeth under the Dutchman, Mourinho went on to win league titles in four different countries, and of course two European Cups.

With an estimated fortune of over £50m, the current Spurs boss is one of the richest men in football.

Indeed, in 2010 it was revealed that Mourinho had signed, with Real Madrid, what was then the most lucrative coaching deal in the sport's history - €14.8m annually before bonuses.

Around the same time, Gilly was declared bankrupt in Belfast High court following a petition by HM Revenue and Customs Commissioners over a hefty tax bill.

It's a funny old game and, having now read Gilly's entertaining book, it's good to see he still possesses a wicked sense of humour.

My player of the decade? Don't laugh... it's Jamie Vardy

One day left, so there's still time to get my tuppence-worth in for Premier League player of the decade.

Ah, you thought it would be someone from all-conquering Man City? Sergio Aguerooooo perhaps, David Silva or Vincent Kompany?

All three are strong contenders, as are Harry Kane of Spurs and Chelsea duo Eden Hazard (now of Real Madrid) and N'Golo Kante, the latter capturing back-to-back titles at two different clubs.

But it's Kante's former Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy who tops the list for me.

And you could use two goals he scored against Manchester United to neatly bookend the most pivotal and rewarding period of his career.

His first came in September 2014, during a dramatic 5-3 win over the Red Devils at the King Power Stadium.

It was the first time United had lost a Premier League encounter after going 2-0 up and Vardy, who was starting his first game in the top flight at the age of 26, opened his now very impressive goalscoring account that day.

Fast forward 13 months to the same fixture; by now the whippet-fast Vardy is the most lethal striker in English football, his neatly-taken and widely celebrated goal making him the first player to score in 11 consecutive EPL games.

Having helped the Foxes stage a miracle escape from relegation the previous season, the effervescent, terrier-like and perpetually irritating Vardy's goals would propel Claudio Ranieri's 5,000-1 outsiders to an astonishing title win a year later.

Although the first to admit he's hardly the most technically gifted player - indeed, it was his silky team-mate Riyad Mahrez who won Footballer of the Year that historic season - Vardy gets my vote for knuckling down and battling his way to the summit after initially squandering his early promise, a fate that, sadly, has befallen so many young footballers.

Runner-up on my list is the goalkeeper Vardy beat on those two momentous afternoons, David de Gea.

A recent slump in form might have tarnished the Spaniard's reputation a little, but if an outfield player had, over the past 10 years, become the most prolific winner of United's Player of the Year award in the club's history, would anyone be quibbling?

And third... James Milner. Longevity, dependability, effort, dedication and reliability, no matter who he's played for. And he's still doing the business at 33. Happy new Decade.

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