Rob Freeman is a former Gloucester rugby writer for the Citizen who has been watching the club since the 1970s. Now a sub-editor in Cheltenham, we asked him to name his best Gloucester team over the past four decades.
THIS year marks (gulp) four decades since my dad first introduced a four-year-old to Kingsholm – sparking an addiction which will not be kicked in any new year resolutions.
Who the opponents were on that first day is a blur – the first match to stay in the memory is an 80-10 thrashing of Guy’s Hospital – but it started a lifelong affair which has endured through thick, thin and Twickenham.
Over the intervening years, playing, reporting on the game and pesky Saturday shifts in the office have kept me away for long periods, but only one result really mattered every weekend.
Picking a best XV from those 40 years has been a battle between the heart and the head in places. Some spots were simple, others required lengthy debate which is still going on in my head and the team has changed countless times.
15 Olly Morgan
The position with probably the longest shortlist (Catling, Butler, Mapletoft, Smith and Delport), but nobody has been as secure and brave in defence and under a high ball (to his own detriment at times) as Morgan, who also added a genuine cutting edge in attack.
14 Philippe Saint-Andre
Having reported on Gloucester when Don Caskie from Dursley was considered an outsider, the arrival of Saint-Andre ushered in a new era. Probably past his best when he arrived, but brought a new dimension to the team and the Shed’s repertoire.
13 Richard Mogg
One very much from the heart. My first favourite player and, as every Gloucester fan from that era knows, the best player not to be capped by England.
12 Terry Fanolua
Maybe not the silkiest of centres, but nobody born in GRH or the Dilke has given as much to the cause.
11 James Simpson-Daniel
Easy choice. Nobody – outside a good old-fashioned forward charge – has brought such a sense of excitement and anticipation to the crowd. Shockingly treated by both England and Lady Luck.
10 Freddie Burns
Difficult choice. We’ve had some fine game controllers (Hamlin), monstrous boots (Mercier) and, briefly, exciting mavericks (Mapletoft and Lamb), but Burns has been the best combination of the three and offered the biggest threat to opposition defences from the 10 shirt.
9 Andy Gomarsall
Marcus Hannaford headed a string of fine local scrum-halves for years, but the exports have the edge. Gomarsall, at his best, has the extra class to beat off the always wholehearted challenge of Scott Benton (and, far too briefly, Dmitri Yachvili).
1 Trevor Woodman
Props should have been the most difficult choice but, despite an honourable mention for Malcolm Preedy, there really was no contest. But for injury after his move to Sale, would have been regarded as world great.
2 Steve Mills
Tough choice. Greening, Azam and Dunn all came close, but it is back to my youth for the perennial England understudy who would have had caps aplenty nowadays.
3 Phil Vickery
There’s been a fair few top-quality tightheads clad in Cherry and Whites over the years, but Vickery was a fairly easy choice and set the template for the modern prop for a few years
4 Dave Sims
There have been better-known, more-capped players in the second row, but none of them exemplified ‘Glawster dawg’ quite like Simsy. Great guy to have on your side, horrible to play against, even back in our schoolboy days.
5 Ian Jones
Watching the All Black legend walk onto the Kingsholm pitch was an unreal moment for those of us
who were used to seeing players arrive at Gloucester through the local clubs. His arrival rewrote the template – as did his departure to one of our rivals for a better offer.
6 John Gadd
The head says Jake Boer, but the heart won this battle. Boyhood hero once forwards caught my eye above backs. Teague, Longstaff and Gadd was the holy trinity of back rows (and almost got picked en masse).
7 Akapusi Qera
Andy Hazell would have had this locked down not that long ago, but the Fijian has been the epitome of power, pace, commitment and no little talent during his stay at Castle Grim. The people he tackled rather less sorry to see him go.
8 Mike Teague
Err… do you really need an explanation? Just the best - and even the compelling argument of Junior Paramore and extravagant talents of James Forrester don’t come close to ousting Iron Mike.
Dunn, Preedy, Blakeway, Boyle, Forrester, Benton, Hamlin, Delport
Do you agree with Rob's team? Let us know your best team