- 29 May 1952
"Bristol City Football Club has lost a real friend."
Those were the words of City owner Steve Lansdown on hearing the sad news that Gerry Gow had sadly lost his battle with cancer in October 2016.
The Glaswegian came down from Bonnie Scotland for trials at the club in 1969 on the same train as Tom Ritchie and suitably impressed, earning a contract.
Gow made his debut on April 4th 1970 in a 2-1 away defeat at Charlton Athletic. Little did we know then that it would be the first of 445 appearances, a figure that still to this day makes him eighth on the list of all-time appearances for the club.
His first goal came the following season in a 3-3 draw at Sheffield United. By then boss Alan Dicks had installed the Scotsman as a mainstay in the City midfield.
As seasons passed with Gow in the team, City began to progress, moving away from relegation battles towards the ultimate challenge of winning promotion to the top flight.
In 1972/73, as City finished fifth in the old Second Division, his 13 goals in all competitions made him the team’s top scorer. The following year he was given the ultimate accolade, Player of the Season, as voted for by the supporters who by now adored him.
Ray Cashley, Geoff Merrick, Trevor Tainton, Tom Ritchie and Gow – those were the five ever-presents in 1975/76 as City completed their mission of promotion, finishing second in the division behind Sunderland.
Other regulars in that famous team were: Paul Cheesley, Gary Collier, Bryan Drysdale, Keith Fear, Donnie Gillies, Jimmy Mann, Gerry Sweeney and Clive Whitehead – the man who scored the decisive promotion-sealing goal against Portsmouth.
Gow played 27 times in the top flight the following season, scoring just once – but it was a pretty important goal that still holds its place in history.
It was at Coventry City’s Highfield Road on May 19th, the final day of the season. With the match delayed, both teams knew a draw would be enough to keep them up, but City trailed 2-0 after 52 minutes.
Gerry took the game by the scruff of its neck and scored a sweet volley from Gillies’ header down. Gillies netted with 11 minutes left to secure City’s safety, in a game that ended with both teams passing the ball around in a controversial stalemate.
City were to enjoy four seasons at English football’s top table. Gow again won the Player of the Season award in 1979, but two years later, following City’s relegation to the Third Division, his time with the club ended.
He joined Manchester City to get back into the First Division and featured in an historic FA Cup final, as Ricky Villa stole the headlines for Tottenham Hotspur with a solo wonder goal that sealed an incredible replay success for the Londoners at Wembley.
It was to be Gerry’s only season with the Citizens. He moved on quickly to Rotherham United before ending his playing career with Burnley. He returned to the South West to take charge of Yeovil Town and Weymouth.
It says it all about the man that Gow was granted a retrospective testimonial in 2012, to celebrate his 12 years of service at the club.
Shaun Goater, Jackie Dziekanowski, Brian Tinnion, Mickey Bell, Scott Murray, Bob Taylor – they all came back to join Gow in the Legends team that took on their counterparts from, fittingly, Manchester City. The game attracted more than 3,000 fans, despite the fact it took place 31 years after his last appearance for the club.
On the pitch he carried the fight for the team and his team-mates. His lung-busting, tough-tackling approach is what won him the hearts of City fans. Off the pitch he was a true gent, always willing to give up his time for those who supported him.
Sadly, at the age of 64, cancer brought his life to an end all too soon. But the memories still live on.