It was the story that not only caught the local supporters by surprise but the rest of the League of Ireland; Keith Gillespie signs for First Division side Longford Town.
The former Northern Ireland International (capped 86 times) who played with Manchester United, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers, to name a few, has signed for the Town until the end of the current season and is set to make his debut against Athlone at Flancare Park on Saturday night next.
Speaking to the Leader about his new recruit, Town boss Tony Cousins said sponsor Phil Munnelly was the main instigator in the move. “Phil Munnelly who is involved with the club let it be known that Keith was interested in playing and asked me would I be interested. The Chairman then rang me and asked would I be interested and that it was my call. I said I’d go and meet him. I met Keith and he was very enthusiastic. He wants to play for the club and wants to come in and do well,” said the Town boss.
Gillespie, who is 36 years old, brings with him a wealth of experience at both club and international level. The Town boss feels his presence at the club will help the younger players. He said, “My feeling on it is he will help the younger players. He has played at the highest level. It will give players in the dressing-room a lift. Hopefully it works out. If it does it will be a great signing for the club.”
Cousins admitted that his players are delighted with their new team-mate. They met and trained with him on Sunday. He hopes the move will work out for everyone. “At the end of the day, it’s a big name player. It gives the club a profile and they got a good bit of publicity during the past week. The most important thing is how it works out in the long-term. Hopefully Keith performs on the pitch for us. If that works out, then no doubt he’ll be a big plus. He gives you quality on the ball,” Cousins said.
Although he’s pleased to be able to call upon a player like Gillespie the main concern for Cousins is the club as a whole. He is trying to develop young players and hopes to continue that this season.
He said, “Most of our players are U-21 and Keith will help them. I’m interested in the whole club. Three U-18s made their debut in the Leinster Senior Cup last week and that gave me as much pleasure as Keith Gillespie signing for us.” Gillespie is familiar with Flancare Park having played a friendly for Sheffield Utd there in 2007.