Martin Gittings Remembered

By Pete H

Few, if any, people leave quite such an impression on a football club. But you can certainly say that Martin Gittings is one of those people. At Boro’, there are a good few names who spring to mind when thinking about their contributions; the roles they played in getting us from the King George V Playing Fields to Wembley and White Hart Lane. Football, however, is a game where goals matter – no matter where they come from or how they scored. And when you have 217 to your name, well, that’s a lot in anyone’s book – let alone our club’s own. Making that sort of impact gets you noticed. It gets you adored. And it gets you remembered.

Remembering Martin Gittings

Alas, for BoroGuide, Martin’s time at the club pre-dates ours. Our editor picked up the Boro’-supporting baton in early 1996; not that long after Gitts played his last game in a Boro’ shirt to be fair. Even for the freshest faces who stepped through the Broadhall Way turnstiles for the first time during that Conference-winning campaign, Martin Gittings’ name echoed around the four stands. Barry Hayles had taken on the goalscoring mantle, but there was no denying the stalwart striker’s presence in our achievements during that era. Yes, it was Cloughie who masterminded our rise up the Diadora League. But we repeat what we said – goals matter, and Martin grabbed a lot of them.

It wasn’t just during the early 1990s either. Our editor is often jealous of those fans with either the good foresight, or benefit of older age, who were there from 1980 onwards. And Martin’s story with us starts way back when; a competitive debut against Letchworth Garden City coming in July 1981. Just for reference: our editor was -4 years old at the time. It was a relatively inauspicious start to life as a Boro’ player; no immediate goalscoring burst. Indeed, it wasn’t until February 1982 that Martin Gittings’ name first appeared on our scoresheets. If that constitutes a delay, however, it’s not like he didn’t go onto make up for it – and then some – over the following decade-and-a-bit.

On Sunday, Boro' are hosting a very important benefit game for a very important player – superstar striker Martin Gittings
Martin Gittings in action for Boro’ during the 1980s.

Just how good was he?

Well, ask anyone who was there. Darren Isted of The Comet fame is a good place to start; writing an obituary for the official site. OK, so we never saw him stride out onto the Broadhall Way turf in League Two. And it’s fair enough to suggest that comparisons with our most recent and potent strikers is somewhat comparing apples with oranges. Yet, you can still point to the legacy that Martin leaves behind. For a start, he’s almost outscored Carl Alford, Barry Hayles, and Steve Morison combined. He won three promotions during his time here, playing for us at every level of the Vauxhall Opel/Diadora League. And, at each level he played at, he scored goals.

Why would it be any different if he had the chance to play for us in League Two?

Martin’s career wasn’t exclusively spent here, of course. But, during the 1980s, it wasn’t uncommon for players to move on and return. Gitts had spells at clubs such as Barnet, Harlow Town, and Wivenhoe Town; taking him up the divisions ahead of us on occasion. Yet, there was a sense of unfinished business at Boro’. And so it came to pass. He missed out on our record-breaking 1990-1 campaign where Jimmy Hughes bagged 32 times. Mere child’s play for our Martin. The 1991-2 campaign (another title-winning one) saw Gitts net 44 times in Diadora League Division One. Up we went a level to the Premier Division, and another 32 goals were added to the tally.

And the season we won the Diadora League Premier Division title? Oh, a mere 40 more goals piled on. Just think about that in the context of how many players have scored as many as that in their entire time with us.

Martin Gittings tried his hand at American Football back in the day too
From goals to gridiron…

An enduring Boro’ legacy

So, it’s easy to see why Martin’s name is etched very firmly into the fabric of this club. Everton have Dixie Dean. Spurs have Jimmy Greaves. Manchester United have George Best. And what they (and others) have – as these examples show – are players who stood out, stepped up, and shone bright. No player ever transcends a club completely, but their names are forever associated with glory and achievement. Martin Gittings is our man in that spotlight; an individual who may well hold the title of Stevenage (Borough) Football Club’s record goalscorer ’til the end of days. It’ll take something special to overhaul those 217 goals. No-one yet has covered even half that distance.

And how many players get a fanzine named after them too?

Martin’s family and friends are no doubt mourning the loss of a wonderful person they held so dear. Boro’ supporters old and new too are saddened and heartbroken by the news. But we hope that, at the same time, Martin’s nearest and dearest can draw comfort in the joy and happiness he brought to thousands of our townsfolk over the year. Not to mention the foundations he did so much to lay for today’s club…

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