International Appearances - Michael Gilkes
Caps: 5 (of 5)
When Michael Gilkes arrived at The Den in 1999, his career was winding down. Aged 34, his best years were thought to have been behind him, but in one final hurrah, Jinky Gilkes proved to be a valuable squad player for The Lions and ended up making his international debut for Barbados four days shy of his thirty-fifth birthday.
Gilkes made his name with the Reading side that so nearly won promotion to The Premiership in the early 1990s. A fast, tricky winger, he made over 400 appearances in all competitions for the Berkshire club as they went from the old Fourth Division to the very edge of the top flight. He spent nearly thirteen years with The Royals, scoring 52 goals along the way, before the relegation-bound club sold him to Wolves in 1997. He spent two seasons at Molineux before manager Keith Stevens signed him for Millwall.
In his first season at The Den he rotated the left-midfield duties with Christophe Kinet and Steven Reid. But although considered something of a fringe player, he weighed in with two very important goals - including a last minute-strike against Wrexham - as The Lions captured a play-off spot in Division Two by the skin of their teeth. Although considerably older than his rivals for the left-wing berth, Gilkes could be relied upon to do a job whenever the manager called upon him and often showed signs of his former prowess with bursts of pace and tricky ball skills.
However, the following season so Stevens and Alan McCleary depart, to be replaced by Mark McGhee, who Gilkes played under at both Reading and Wolves. McGhee began to build his side around youth and the winger's appearances became limited as The Lions stormed to the Second Division Championship.
In all, Gilkes made thirty four appearances for Millwall over two seasons before leaving on a free transfer for Slough Town but in the summer of 2000, his career took an unlikely turn.
Gilkes performances during the 1999/2000 season earned the left-winger a call-up to the Barbados international side and ended up playing in their World Cup Qualifying campaign. He made five appearances in total - all in the semi-final round of the CONCACAF qualifying section - but there was to be no fairy-tail at the end as they succumbed to the likes of Costa Rica and eventual Quarter-Finalists, USA. But those five caps were richly deserved for a player who always gave 100%, despite the on-rushing years.