After the departure of Cody McDonald – sad for some, not so much for others – last week, it got me thinking of all the strikers that I have been lucky enough to see grace the hallowed Priestfield turf over my twenty plus years supporting the Gills.
From the target men to the diminutive fox in the box types, there have been plenty who have provided us all with some wonderful moments and memories over the years, but could I condense them into an all time top five?
Well I’ve given it a go, and after much deliberation and chopping and changing I – at least I think I have – have settled on the following.
1) Robert Taylor
Simply the cleanest striker of a football I have ever seen, whether it was with the instep or hitting through with his laces. He was at the club for nowhere near long enough in my opinion, but the time that he did spend in Kent is surely forever ingrained into the memory of every single Gillingham supporter. After a slow start with the Gills he simply went from strength to strength, and at the time of his departure he was already a Gillingham legend. Forever remembered for the FIVE goals he hit in an away game at Burnley, he also netted in the now famous Play-Off Final at Wembley versus future employers Manchester City. For me though, my favourite memory of ‘Super Bob‘ was the treble he struck at home to the returning Tony Pulis’ Bristol City, where he only entered the fray on the hour mark after struggling with a groin problem.
2) Ade Akinbiyi
Pace, power, left foot, right foot, headers. Ade Akinbiyi simply had the lot. Similarly to Robert Taylor, he was another who sadly didn’t stay with the club for too long but again he made a lasting impression on the Gills faithful with his goals and performances. His goals helped steer the club away from the threat of relegation after arriving midway through the 1996-97 campaign, and in 1997-98 his goals almost secured the Gills a Play-Off spot, the club agonisingly missing out after a final day 0-0 draw at home to Wigan. Although not a scorer of spectacular goals like Super Bob, you knew what you were getting with Ade. Simply, if he got half a yard on his man he wasn’t for catching, and if he got his shot away then nine times out of ten the net would be rippling. His displays with us earned him a million pound move to Bristol City as he started his climb up the football ladder, and although he was sadly ridiculed after his move to the Premier League with Leicester City, he’ll always be a Gillingham hero.
3) Iffy Onuora
For all the technical abilities of my first two choices, I just loved watching big Iffy play the game. He was almost a throwback type centre forward, a proper battering ram type who would simply run through walls for the cause. But along with all the brute force was a real knack of knowing where the goal was, as he found the net regularly during his two spells in Kent. A record of around one in three with the Gills was a great return considering we only paid an initial fee of £25,000 for him in 1996, and despite the occasional ‘red mist‘ moment he netted – well I’m giving it to him – one of the most important goals in the club’s history, the first versus Wigan in the 2000 Play-Off Final win at Wembley.
4) Cody McDonald
For anyone who has watched the Gills over the last few years, the fact that we’ll never hear ‘Ooooh Cody McDonald!!‘ ringing around the Priestfield stadium anymore will take some getting used to. He has been our biggest constant in terms of goals scored since first arriving at the club back in 2010. Superb initially on loan in League 2, he seamlessly made the step up and consistently scored goals throughout his time in Kent, ending up the club’s top marksman on three occasions. Some will claim he was on the wane more recently – injury sadly interrupted his 2015-16 campaign – but he still netted 12 goals in a struggling side during what was his final season with us, and if we were to pick any goals to sign off with, it would have to be that double at home to Bristol Rovers in April. Simply Cody at his best.
5) Carl Asaba
Worked superbly in tandem with Robert Taylor during their time with the Gills, Asaba in full flow was simply a joy to watch. In 1998-99 they hit over 40 goals between them, Asaba himself netting 22 times as the Gills came within seconds of seeing off Manchester City at Wembley in front of nearly 80,000 people. Big and strong but also with a quick turn of foot, Carl was almost the complete centre forward. His second campaign was sadly wrecked by injury problems as the Gills returned to Wembley and gained promotion at the expense of Wigan, but he played his part in that game, setting up our opener. Left the club in 2001 for Sheffield United with a record of 40 goals in 91 appearances.
So that’s my top five from my time watching the Gills, but there are plenty of other front men who have made their mark.
Honourable mentions have to go to Leo Fortune-West, Dennis Bailey, Steve Butler, Andy Thomson, Marlon King, Simeon Jackson and Danny Kedwell, and I’m sure there are plenty more who I have at this particular moment in time missed out.
Thanks for reading, and let me know your top five all time Gills strikers.
UP THE GILLS!!