Pat Terry – ‘On me ‘ead, son!’
The sale of Ron Saunders in September 1958 was a bitter blow, but amazingly Gills invested half of the proceeds in a new centre forward, paying Swansea £4,000 for the services of Pat Terry. In the programme speak of today, Pat would be ‘a much-travelled striker’, but he certainly knew where the goal was.
Just under six feet tall, Pat Terry had just the right build for a centre-forward. He was strong and muscular, and he put himself about a bit. He was extremely powerful in the air and many of his goals came from headers bulleted in off crosses or corners from Gordon Brown, Ron Bacon and Gordon Pulley. He didn’t use his feet much other than to stand up on – going through on goal and finishing with a powerful shot wasn’t really in his repertoire. What was in his repertoire was an ability to terrorise goalkeepers.
In Pat’s day goalkeepers weren’t cosseted as they are now. Shoulder-charges, kicking the ball out of their hands if they hadn’t got proper control of it, and challenging them while they are trying to make a clearance were all part of the game, and Pat was a master craftsman. Each opposition goalkeeper was sized up by the crowd, searched for signs of weakness or nervousness, and then the satisfied murmur ‘Pat will have this one’. He usually did. As a result, Gills’ goals were normally accompanied by mentions of a ‘strong/fierce/robust/aggressive challenge by Terry’, loose balls being ‘bundled in’, keepers ‘loosing the ball under pressure’ etc. Not exactly cultured stuff, but the crowd lapped it up. Referees were less enamoured. Some believed in the game being ‘for men’ and anything less than a forearm smash was allowed, others, like the notorious Mr Rowbottom, decided that Pat’s game was unfair, and pulled him up at every opportunity. Needless to say such referees got the bird.
In the three seasons that he was with the club, to July 1961, Pat Terry scored an incredible 60 goals in 108 appearances. There was a hat-trick of headers in a thrilling 5-4 win against Gateshead in the opening game of the 1959/60 season, and another hat-trick in September 1960 when Gills came from 2-0 down at half-time against Aldershot to win 5-2, but other than that his value was to be able to get a goal in practically every game he played. Just the sort of player you’d kill for if you were Doctor Grossmark, taking over as the new Chairman with the promise to lift Gills from the doldrums of Fourth Division mediocrity. So, naturally enough, the first thing he and his board did with their goal machine was to sell Pat to Northampton for £6,000.
From there, Pat went on to play for Millwall, Reading and Swindon, and in all totalled over 200 league goals. He played against us for all three clubs, but he never scored against us. An early example of the curse of the Gillingham strikers?