Star pupil Gillespie is ready to pass his new exam at Cheltenham
FOCUS ON ROBINS’ EX-SCHOOLBOY PRODIGY
Steven Gillespie broke Robbie Fowler’s schoolboy goalscoring record – but being thrust into the Fleetwood youth team at the age of 28 did not revive that form.
Better times came at Cheltenham, and after returning to the Robins on a one-month loan deal last week, Gillespie hopes familiar surroundings could overcome his fishy spell with the Cod Army.
Gillespie was forced to train with the youth team at Highbury Stadium before being made available for transfer just a year after joining the ambitious League Two club.
Following four successful seasons in League One with Colchester United, Gillespie expected big things from his move to Fleetwood.
But he made just four appearances after Christmas following the appointment of boss Graham Alexander to replace Micky Mellon, who had signed him.
Gillespie’s move from Cheltenham to Colchester in the summer of 2008 for £400,000 remains the Robins’ club record transfer.
Now things have come full circle for the player, whose Liverpool Schools record, previously held by Fowler, was subsequently broken by Wayne Rooney, who hit 72 in a season.
“The record is something I get reminded of but unfortunately a player called Wayne Rooney ended up breaking it – though he is not a bad player to have it taken from you,” said Gillespie, who scored 23 goals in 71 games during his first spell with the Robins.
“I was proud of it at the time, it gave me confidence but I scored goals as a youngster all the way through.
“I am sad at how things have turned out at Fleetwood. It is an ambitious club and this year they have signed a lot of players and the pressure is there for them to go up.
“Anything other than promotion is going to be deemed a failure – but that is the type of place you want to be around. As a footballer you want that pressure to be winning games.
“It hasn’t worked out for me there but it is still my parent club and I am contracted there until the end of the season so you don’t know what will happen.
“But at the moment I am not in the manager’s plans. Last year was very frustrating, particularly from January, because I didn’t miss a day’s training but instead of playing I was in the gym on a Saturday and that isn’t what any footballer wants, and I didn’t think it was fair.
“Now it is good to see some familiar faces at Cheltenham. It is a good opportunity for me to play some football on a Saturday again which is what I want.”
Gillespie originally joined Cheltenham from Bristol City in January 2005, turning two loan stints into a permanent deal a year later.
Under John Ward, Cheltenham secured promotion into League One following a 1-0 win over Grimsby Town in the play-off final, and stayed there for three years during which time Gillespie moved on to Colchester – though not until after memorably scoring the winner in a 1-0 league victory over Leeds United.
It is these good times that Gillespie, who made his return in the 3-1 defeat at home to Plymouth, hopes to re-live over the next few games.
“I really enjoyed my first game back and I got a great reception,” he added. “Cheltenham have been really close to promotion a lot in recent seasons and I have no doubt they can challenge for the play-offs again.
“From what I have seen in training I am confident it can happen, there is some quality in the squad.
“The result against Plymouth was disappointing but for me it was good to get out there and get some action again, I really enjoyed it.
“I am sure over the coming weeks we will put things right and get some results.
“I scored a lot of goals there before and the club has been good to me, and hopefully I have been for them too.
“But the fans won’t be singing my name much longer if I don’t deliver. Football fans want goals and they want wins so I need to play my part again.
“I don’t know what will happen after the month is up but I believe I can score goals.”
TEEN TALENTS: Steven Gillespie scores for Colchester against Plymouth. Insets: Wayne Rooney and Robbie Fowler