In a football career spanning nearly 20 years, defender Kevin Gage represented both of this weekend’s opponents Sheffield United and Aston Villa and chalked up over 400 appearances.
He began his career with Wimbledon and under Dave Bassett was part of the Dons squad which forged the famous ‘Crazy Gang.’ Having made his debut at 17 he is the clubs youngest player. They were made famous by rising from the old Fourth Division in 1980 to the First Division in the space of 4 years.
In 1987 a £110,000 move took him to Aston Villa and as an ever-present helped the Villa Park win promotion back to the First Division as Runners-Up behind Millwall. In 1990 Villa finished second in the league after gibing Liverpool a run for their money, and following a change in leadership after Ron Atkinson replaced Graham Taylor, Gage found himself out of favour and in 1991 joined Sheffield United initially on loan.
The move was soon made permanent and reuniting with old boss Bassett. He scored on his debut – a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur! He was part of the Blades squad which lost to Wednesday in the FA Cup Semi-Final in 1993. And twelve months later the club was relegated from the Premier League.
He was player of the season during the 1994-95 campaign but Bassett’s departure midway through the following season saw Gage also depart.
Gage spent twelve months at Preston North End were injuries began to take its toll, and a further two years at Hull City saw continuous injuries grow and appearances few and far between. He decided to hang up his boots and return to the Sheffield area to run a pub – what else would you do!
He holds the distinction of playing and scoring in all four divisions of the Football League.
With this Saturday’s clash between Sheffield United and Aston Villa (kick-off: 3pm) almost upon us, VitalBlades briefly asked the former Blades player his reflections on his playing career and his thoughts on the game.
At Aston Villa;
1) You had previously won the old Fourth Division title with Wimbledon and in 1988 was part of Villa’s side who won promotion into Division One. How did it feel to win promotion to the top flight?
The Wimbledon promotion to the top flight will always be the most special simply because when I joined from school in 1980 we were in Div 4 and no—one in their right mind would have ever believed we’d end up in Div1 ! At Villa, we were expected to bounce straight back to the top flight as one of the biggest clubs in Div 2. It was a great achievement but will never top the Wimbledon one!
At Sheffield United;
2) You scored on your Blades debut, a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur in 1991. Later that season, upon your return to Villa Park scored in a 1-1 draw. How was your early United experience compared to today’s team?
It was relatively easy for me to slot into the Blades team as I knew quite a few players from Wimbledon days and knew exactly the style of play Bassett wanted having had so much success with it . After being stuck in the Villa reserves for a few months early season cos Big Ron wouldn’t play me, it was a big relief and I was grateful to get some first team action again. When I joined Bassett told me that Utd were a decent side but not quite getting results they deserved. I joined Nov 1991 and we were bottom, but at the end of the season we had finished 9th, so he wasn’t wrong!
3) What was Dave Bassett like as a Manager?
He was a brilliant motivator and good at getting all the players together and fighting for a cause. A kind of “us verses the world” type thing! Funnily enough I didn’t actually enjoy the style of play that we all got so successful with, but it achieved results so I did my job and over the years we grew to accept it!
This weekend’s fixture;
4) United lost this fixture last season. How do you think Chris Wilder will approach this fixture this time and what is your score prediction?
CW will approach Villa game like every other at the Lane, in that it will be all about what we do on the pitch and let Villa worry about us. They’ll be attention paid to one or two danger men such as Grealish maybe or the new signing Bolasie if he plays, but a full strength Blades team playing as we can & usually do will give Villa huge problems and I expect us to win….2-0
5) For the remainder of the season, how do you think United will do?
At the start of season, I said Id be happy with mid-table. Now, if we finish there I’ll be disappointed as with Egan, Norwood & Henderson slotting in seamlessly, Coutts to come back & a potential top-class striker on the way, I think the play-offs are very achievable.