No matter how fondly we recall Cascarino from his days at Priestfield, the down-turn in his career after he left Millwall and the harsh public ridicule he was often subjected to at higher-profile clubs meant even many Gills fans regard him as a bit of a clumsy oaf who somehow went through a purple patch in his time with us. Well, anyone who has read his brilliant book (and that should be all of you) will have fallen in love with him all over again.
And some purple patch – he was one of the most consistent goalscorers in the club’s history – 110 goals in 269 league and cup appearances and his towering strength in the air contributing to many others. The book gives an insight into the gangly burger-munching beer monster that first ambled onto the Priestfield turf in front of the Match of the Day cameras, but he started scoring almost at once and only injury prevented him being the leading goalscorer in each of his five full seasons. He went out with a bang, scoring five times in the playoff against Sunderland and all who witnessed the era will have their favourite moments, such as the winner against Bolton to secure the playoff spot; a hat-trick of headers against Darlington, the fifth in the comeback against Brentford or being sent off for trying to throttle Phil Neal at Bolton. His goals were often little-remembered but crucial in low-key fixtures – one of my favourites came when he brokek through, rounded the keeper and slotted home in one of my early away games, a 1-0 win on a Tuesday night at Fellows Park which kept the promotion dream alive for another few days. By the 86-87 season he had matured into an accomplished all-round striker (and still our most capped international) and it was clear that once we failed to go up we would be hard pushed to hold on to him. Not bad for an unfit player wracked with self-doubt. And no need to mention a set of tracksuits or Neville Southall – Cas is a Gills legend.
269 apps, 110 goals