Belfast Telegraph

I'm not past it, says Keith Gillespie

By Stuart McKinley

Keith Gillespie last night said a big thank-you to Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington for keeping him in the international squad.

The winger has played just one minute of club football this season as he is no longer part of Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell’s plans and after being floored by flu for a fortnight, he hasn’t played at all since the last international game, the 4-0 win against San Marino last month.

Gillespie’s former Manchester United team-mate David Beckham has been frozen out of the England picture by Fabio Capello because his LA Galaxy side have been out of action for the last three weeks.

Worthington, however, has kept faith with Gillespie and he is almost certain to start against Hungary in tomorrow night’s friendly at Windsor Park.

That may be down to the fact that Northern Ireland don’t have too many other options on the right-wing, but it is more likely because even at 33 years old, Gillespie is still affective on the international stage.

“I suppose Nigel could have turned round and said that he was going to leave me out because I haven’t been playing at my club,” said Gillespie.

“I would have understood, but David Healy isn’t going to be left out and he hasn’t been playing a lot for Sunderland either.

“Instead Nigel has picked his squad based on international performances and I am thankful that he has done that.

“Although I haven’t played much this season I have been happy with my performances in the international games and I am glad that Nigel feels the same.

“If he had left me out I would have been gutted. I want to play for Northern Ireland and although I have a lot of caps I never want my club situation to affect things when it comes to international games.”

While most people are waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus in just over a month, Gillespie is looking a little bit beyond Christmas.

Instead it is the New Year that he can’t wait for and the opportunity to get out of Sheffield United and leave his Bramall Lane nightmare firmly behind him.

He had been a regular in the line-up for two seasons and was even handed a new deal by Blackwell in the summer, but a fall-out has led to an inevitable parting of the ways in six weeks time.

Gillesipe found himself in a similar position at Blackburn Rovers earlier in his career only to force his way back into the team, but a repeat of that scenario has been ruled out by the Bangor-man.

Worthington has told all the members of his squad who are struggling to get game-time at their clubs to use tomorrow night’s game as a stage to sell themselves, if not to a new manager, then to the boss at their club in order to get back into the team.

“I won’t be selling myself to the manager at my club,” laughed Gillespie.

“There is definitely no chance of a reconciliation.

“At Blackburn I was out in the cold for about six months, then I was brought back in all of a sudden and after that I was a regular when we got back to the Premier League.

“I don’t envisage there being anything like that at Sheffield United.

“I am just waiting for January to come when I can get a move away from the club to somewhere I can get playing again.”

Gillespie will be approaching his 34th birthday in February when it comes to trying to win a contract with a new club.

That may hamper some players, but the 85times-capped winger is determined that he still has plenty to offer prospective managers.

“I have been around for a while now and some managers may look at me and think at 33 years old that I am getting on a bit,” said Gillespie.

“I don’t think that I am past it and it is up to me to go out and show that I am not past it.

“I still think that there are a few years left in me yet before I finish playing. I still feel fit and I want to go out and show managers and scouts that I have plenty of years still to offer.

“My agent has spoken to a few people and although I can’t really say anything at the minute I don’t think there will be a problem getting a move come January.”

Belfast Telegraph


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