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Non-league feature: Mr Goals looks to live up to the name at Poole Town
MR Goals. Richard Gillespie’s nickname is as fitting as it is factually correct.
Supporters at Bashley, Eastleigh and AFC Totton have marvelled at his Midas touch, witnessing the net bulge a whopping 238 times over the past 12 seasons.
However, a bout of plantar fasciitis – an inflammation of the tissue on the sole of the foot – has curtailed the Romsey-born forward’s attempts to live up to his pseudonym over the past 11 weeks.
But despite the frustration of an indefinite spell on the sidelines, the master marksman has re-turned to straight-line running with the hope of terrorising defences and tightening his grip on his favourite name tag within the next month.
“I think the name came about during my second year at Bashley,” recalled Gillespie. “But there were one or two others who called me Dead-eyed Dick. Luckily for me people stuck with Mr Goals!
“It seems to have followed me down to Poole. A few of my mates use it and most people seem to call me that now. As a striker, I suppose there are worse nicknames.
“Thankfully, the recovery is going well because it was taking an age. I was having three sessions of treatment a week and used the anti-gravity treadmill at AFC Bournemouth.
“I have gradually built up to running on full body weight over the past week and I would be happy with a return towards the end of January.”
The simple manner in which accountant Gillespie has gone about his business could be the reason why the rather apt moniker has stuck.
In a world of brash, bullish characters, relatively few column inches have been dedicated to a quiet man who allows his feet to do the talking.
“I’m not a loud person in any walk of life,” he explained. “It’s not shyness, I’m just a bit quieter than most and players tend to look forward to the football without dwelling on personalities once you’re out on the pitch.
“You accept that some people are introverts and some are extroverts. The good thing about football is that you always get that mixture of characters.
“They might be people you would never get to know in your personal life but you get forced together in a dressing room and it’s an enjoyable environment.
“Even when you’re going through patches of bad form or injury, that side of things helps you get through it.”
Released by Southampton at 16, it all began in the New Forest as the rookie quickly made his mark under Bob Higgins during a steep learning curve at Bashley.
“Going to Bash was a bit of a shock to the system because nobody had ever asked me to hold up the ball before. It was much more physical.
"They definitely helped me to mature as a player. I was lucky that some older lads at Bash, such as Fraser Quirke, Andy Darnton and Darren Robson, took me under their wing and educated me.”
The penny dropped at quite a pace. A club record 180 goals for Bash was followed by the step up to the Conference South with Eastleigh as Gillespie pushed for the big time, netting 18 goals in his maiden campaign with the Spitfires.
But his flexibility ultimately led to his downfall before re-emerging in the Southern League where Gillespie seeks a return to non-league’s second tier.
“I am still learning to be honest,” he added. “Over the years you get a bit wiser and I don’t have to do so much running in the channels these days.
"A bit more experience tells me I can leave that to the younger lads. I do most of my running in and around the box as opposed to going towards the corner flags.
“Ideally, I would want to be playing Conference South football now but I am happy at Poole. Of course I want to play at the top of my game and that was definitely an important factor in me signing.
“After leaving Totton over the summer, I wanted to join a team that could get out of the Southern League. The standard in Conference South is so much better, it is more of a challenge and the better players on both sides bring out the best in you.
“Everyone at Poole wants to get there and we all believe we can. Hopefully, it will be this season.”
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