“At least I’m the best player in my own family” – it says much about England’s 2001 Ashes team that bowler Jimmy Ormond’s best moment in a two-Test career is the withering put-down he delivered to Australia’s Mark Waugh. In much the same way, we can understand how Peter Gittings must feel; brother Martin writing himself into Boro’ folklore by scoring hundreds of goals. But don’t let that kid you. Peter’s efforts for us deserve recognition too.
When did Peter Gittings join us?
Gittings was there right at the start of our club’s story; the first-ever player to come off the bench for Boro’ in senior football. And he marked the occasion by scoring one of our three goals as we started our United Counties League Division One campaign with a home win against ON Chenecks. As was common during the 1980s, however, Gittings was one of the many lads to move on from Broadhall Way – and then come back later down the line.
Where did he play for Boro’?
Most often, you’d catch Peter Gittings marauding around our midfield; wearing number 10 if match programmes of the time are to be believed. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t. But there was also a time, after returning from injury, that Derek Montgomery put him in at left-back. The aim was to rebuild his confidence. And it seemed to work.
What makes him an unsung hero?
For a start, he arguably doesn’t get a huge look in because of Martin’s exploits for us. And unfairly so, in our opinion. But he gave us a lot of service during our early years as a club; a member of two title-winning teams. First, there was the 1980-1 United Counties League Division One crown. And, next, was the 1985-6 Vauxhall Opel League Division Two North title. Few others (if any) outside of the early 1990s can say the same.
At the start, Gittings found the net on a regular basis in the first half of the 1980-1 season. Actually, he reached double figures fairly quickly; nestling in between Trevor Metcalfe and Danny Dance for a time. He even scored in six straight games! But, as Dance and Metcalfe jostled for the golden boot for the rest of that season, Gittings’ campaign was a stop-start one due to injury.
First, his knee kept him out of four games over Christmas 1980. Then, with 10 minutes left on the clock at home to Towcester in his second match back, knee issues forced him off again. For the industrious midfielder, it meant the end of his 1980-1 season; undergoing a cartilage op. In a newspaper report taken from the time, coach Paul Peterson said his knee had been playing up for at least a couple of seasons..
Thankfully, he returned in time for the 1981-2 UCL Premier Division campaign; our first at a higher level. And we can’t write it any better than a profile piece in our programme from the Northampton Spencer match: “Peter, perhaps more than any other player, typifies the level of adaptation the team must go through if it is to succeed”.
But it’s little surprise to hear that his knee op left him short of confidence on his return. So, that’s why Monty put him at left back for a bit; “I feel I’ve adapted fairly well,” Gittings said in that same programme. “But I expect to be back in midfield when Paul Peterson is fit”.
And so he was.
Like the season before, however, 1981-2 looks as if it came to a premature end; our data not seeing Gittings in the team for any of our last five matches of term. Of course, we are missing some data; including line-ups for the Rushden, Desborough, Ampthill and Bourne games. If you know whether he featured in these please do let us know. For now, though, we’ll assume that injury (again) robbed him of the chance to see the campaign through.
Back for a second spell
After leaving us in 1982 (it seems) for a spell at Arlesey Town and perhaps others too, we welcomed Peter Gittings back in time for the 1985-6 campaign. But it wasn’t long until his ruddy knee was being a nuisance again. In the programme for our game against Chalfont St Peter on 14 September, the knock that forced him off against Kidderminster in the FA Cup one week before was “clearing up nicely”.
He returned at on 30 September; scoring on his first game back against Heybridge.
Injuries, however, were never far away. He missed the whole of November, sat out all of our Christmas fixtures (though was back for New Year) and the whole of March; the 2-0 defeat to Southall in the FA Vase Quarter Final leaving a mark that’d last into the next campaign.
Into the 1986-7 season, then, and any hopes of building on the 18 starts and three outings from the bench in the previous season were soon dashed. In Gittings’ second appearance of term (against Rainham), he borked his knee again; “the really bad news from Monday night’s game is that Peter Gittings’ knee injury is a long term one and may require surgery”, said the boss at the time – Frank Cornwell.
He returned for the start of 1987, although not in happy circumstances as Boreham Wood stuffed us 5-1 at their place on New Year’s Day. But the programme notes for our home game against Walton & Hersham four days later underlined how important Gittings was to us: “Best news on the injury front for a long time is the recovery of Peter Gittings, who is raring to go after nearly four months sidelined with a troublesome knee injury”.
It turns out the midfielder had needed another knee op after that Rainham match; a legacy of the knock suffered against Southall in March 1986. But disaster struck only 10 minutes into that Walton & Hersham match. After four months out, the knee trouble flared back up. It forced him off and out for the rest of the campaign. It was probably a sign of our fortunes that season; Boro’ only just avoiding relegation as our form collapsed after January.
As for Gittings, he’d never played for us again; unable to add to the 79 starts and four sub appearances that we know about. With the data we’re missing, there may be more to add. But nowhere near the amount that his talent deserved. Can you create a link between the fact that his time with us ended the summer before we were relegated from Vauxhall Opel League Division One? Well, we’re going to.
In hindsight maybe, but there’s no reason why Peter Gittings wouldn’t be seen as a Boro’ great if his knee wasn’t such a bother. So, ‘unsung hero’ is more than a fitting description.
Peter Gittings – 79 (4) appearances*, 18 goals (1980-2, 1985-7)