10. Mel Sage (1981-1986)

I must admit I didn’t really take to Mel Sage when he first broke into the team.  He emerged as a scrawny, fretting fullback in 83-84, trying to fill the boots of recently-departed Micky Adams, who had dominated the left flank during the previous season, his speed and power proving devastatingly effective.  It may have been this burden on young Sage’s shoulders that led to his hunched appearance which always suggested he hadn’t removed the coat hanger from his shirt.

I don’t recall a single winger ever giving him a hard time and he even chipped in with the odd spectacular goal, his first for the club being an absolute screamer in a 3-3 draw with Millwall, and it was typical of Peacock’s side to have such an attack-minded, skill-blessed player in the back four.  A year later he was pivotal in one of my favourite Gills memories, jinking through the Ipswich defence at Portman Road to equalise after we had fallen 2-0 behind against the First Division side in the FA Cup.  The 85-86 season was his finest, however, as he ran off with the Player of the Year award, an ever-present in a side that really should have achieved promotion.  That team never achieved its potential, and neither did Mel Sage.  A £60,000 move to Derby gave him a shot at club football at the highest level and while he was well respected in Division One, injuries ultimately got the better of him.

159 apps, 7 goals

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