Top 25 Cult Heroes 1954-1979: Number 1

September 5, 2005

Mike Burgess – ‘Ave ‘im Spider!’

Standing outside the players entrance before one of his 109 appearances for the Gills, chatting and signing autographs, Mike Burgess looked like he could actually be the Queen’s Equerry. A muscular 6’2” with fair hair impeccably groomed, sports jacket and trousers immaculate, here surely was a true Corinthian. But somewhere between the players entrance and the pitch, Mike transformed into the legendary cult hero ‘Spider’, the tall fair-haired assassin and ruthless conqueror and destroyer of centre-forwards.

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Top 25 Cult Heroes 1954-1979: Number 2

July 11, 2005

Johnny Simpson – ‘The First Gentleman Of Gillingham’

Gills fans have always had a special relationship with their goalkeepers and three of them have achieved legendary cult status – Jim Stannard, celery-consuming custodian who in 1995/96 kept a club record 29 clean sheets and an all-time League record of conceding only 20 goals in 46 games – Ron Hillyard who between 1974 and 1990 kept goal in 563 league games in an all-time record of 657 appearances for the Gills – and Johnny Simpson, the greatest of them all, whose 571 league appearances will probably never be beaten.

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Top 25 Cult Heroes 1954-1979: Number 3

June 16, 2005

Charlie Livesey – ‘Everybody’s Darling’

Once upon a time, before Posh and Becks and ‘Footballers Wives’, footballers were just ordinary blokes living ordinary lives. As far as the Gillingham players were concerned, they were usually in their late-twenties onwards, lived around the town, had a wife and young family, might drive a battered car. Fashion icons? Don’t be funny son, the missus usually moans about Brylcreem getting on the cushion covers. Clubbing? What, in Rainham? Then suddenly, in August 1961, a wonderfully charismatic player lit up this drab world. His name was Charlie Livesey.

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Top 25 Cult Heroes 1954-1979: Number 4

April 11, 2005

Ken Price – ‘Fighter for the cause’

Ken! – clap, clap-clap, clap-clap – Price! – clap, clap-clap, clap-clap – Ken! – clap, clap-clap, clap-clap – Price! – clap, clap-clap, clap-clap (repeat until palms hurt).  What a chant that was – warlike, primeval – you could imagine them chanting it in the gladiator arena in front of Nero. It was perfect for the man it honoured.

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Top 25 Cult Heroes 1954-1979: Number 5

March 24, 2005

Alan Wilks – ‘King Arthur’

My dad pushed the paper straight into my face as soon as I got in from work. ‘Look, we’ve signed a hippie!’ What on earth was he on about? On the back page was a photo of new manager Andy Nelson beaming as a bloke with long bushy hair and a moustache sat at a desk putting pen to paper. And Nelson had paid £5,000 to Queens Park Rangers for him. Hmmmm, what do we make of this? Not many people with facial hair in football. The only one I could think of was Jimmy Hill, and everyone took the p*ss out of him.

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Top 25 Cult Heroes 1954-1979: Number 6

March 8, 2005

Damien Richardson – ‘Paddy The Magician’

For anyone who has supported Gills for less than 20 years, Damien Richardson was one of a string of poor managers in our slide to almost total oblivion, probably memorable only for excusing yet another defeat on the grass being too long. For anyone above the age of 40, with 30 years Gills-supporting on the clock, Damien Richardson was one of the finest players we have ever had. He had everything – strong shot, good header, silky skills, knew where the goal was, and had an excellent football brain.

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Top 25 Cult Heroes 1954-1979: Number 7

March 7, 2005

Brian Gibbs – ‘Mr. Reliable’

How much would you pay for a striker who can give you twenty goals a season, and be available to play almost every match? A bit more than the £4,000 Freddie Cox paid Bournemouth for Brian Gibbs, that’s for sure.

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