by Phil Matthews
Scottish defender Gary Gillespie was Joe Fagan’s first signing as Liverpool manager and was instantly met with a huge challenge – to find a way to break into the hugely successful Hansen-Lawrenson defensive partnership.
Gillespie was no stranger to challenges though having captained Falkirk as a 17 year old and having been part of a Coventry side which had constantly battled the odds against relegation.
It took Gillespie almost an entire season to make his full debut after a series of injuries, but finally he was given a chance in the League Cup against Walsall. Liverpool ended up as League, League Cup, and European Cup winners in his first season although Gillespie had not played enough games to qualify for a medal.
During the 85 season, Gillespie completed a rare achievement for a defender. He scored a league hat-trick in Liverpool’s 5-0 defeat of Birmingham. He was getting plenty of game time as Hansen and Lawrenson both succumbed to injuries and two surging runs into the box saw him with two goals, when Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Jan Molby stepped aside to allow Gillespie to take it and he completed his hat-trick.
Lawrenson’s premature retirement in 1988 saw Gillespie cement his place alongside Alan Hansen, and Liverpool won the league again. By the end of the 89/90 season, Gillespie was losing his place to Gary Ablett and Glenn Hysen, although he did score the winner against Derby County to seal the title for The Reds.
When Kenny Dalglish resigned in 1991, the writing was on the wall for Gillespie and he was sold to Celtic for £925,000.
Lawrenson and Hansen may have taken all of the plaudits, but Gillespie was every bit as important to the Liverpool side of the late 80’s. He is still heavily involved with the club and represents us in the Masters tournament, as well as being part of the commentary team for the Liverpool TV channel.