Who makes your Grimsby Town best XI between 1971-2002?

Grimsby Town squad photo on the pitch at Wembley in 1998

Image courtesy of the Grimsby Telegraph

On Wednesday 4th February Cod Almighty launched a poll, on behalf of the Mariners Trust, to discover which players should be regarded as Grimsby Town’s best XI between the years 1971 and 2002. As a fan (and as someone who values living in a democratic society where everyone has a say on the most important matters in life) I thought I’d submit my team. And because I’ve got this blog, I thought I’d share my choices with you.

Also, rather handily, I decided on and wrote about my best XI last season for the GTFC match day programme, so I can copy and paste it on here like a plagiaristic pro. So, here it is:

Goalkeeper: Aidan Davison

What a joy it was to watch a keeper completely command his area. Good in the air, confident on the ground and with a foghorn of a voice, our defenders knew where they were with the Northern Irishman behind them. Gaffs were very rare indeed. It made me appreciate the luxury of having a keeper whose confidence oozed through the rest of the team.

Right back: John McDermott

Solid, dependable and loyal – I think all Mariners fans run out of superlatives to describe our Macca. Even in retirement he continues to make me feel proud, as whenever there’s a discussion in the office about one-club careers I can contribute with glee and tell them about the man who broke our appearance record (and is likely to keep it for decades to come).

Left back: Tony Gallimore

Controversial! Gally was loved by Town fans, in their own special way. With a left peg instead of a left foot, Gally-the-dallier possessed poor spatial awareness. I was always entertained – if also panicked – when the ball went anywhere near him. I was once told by a PE teacher to watch Gally’s performance and learn from him in order to play left-back for the school team. I played for the school team only once (make of that what you will).

Centre back: Peter Handyside

Ok, so this team so far has a distinct double Wembley season flavour to it, but I couldn’t leave our cultured ball-playing centre half out of the team. I’ve often cited him as my favourite Town player – especially when growing up. It’s rare you see centre backs so calm with the ball at their feet; he was an accomplished player and it remains a tragedy that he never played at the top level.

Centre back: Richard Smith

He really did look the part – when he played. And that’s the great shame. He was a great player, but we just didn’t see enough of him. Signed by Brian Laws in 1996, Smudger spent around four years at Blundell Park, and about three of them were in the treatment room. But I choose not to hold that against him. I remember the games he played, and when he did get wheeled out to play it was difficult to see how he was troubled by injury. He had a huge long throw, which I think we used once. It’s probably what put his back out, come to think of it.

Right wing: Kevin Donovan

A good first touch, stylish interplay and a lovely knack of pushing the ball past his marker by just enough of a margin to whip the ball onto Paul Groves’ head. He made ghosting in at the far post, and popping up in the right areas at the right time, an art form in 1997/8 – although he did tease us for a second too long when clipping the ball into the Wembley net in the play-off final against Northampton.

Left wing: Kingsley Black

I did consider Nicky Rizzo for a laugh, and then realised it wouldn’t have made anyone laugh. Instead I’ve plumped for the King of Krossing; the bloke who scored that Wembley equaliser that was probably a Jimmy Glass own goal. Black reminds me of when we used to stand up in the Pontoon with genuine excitement at a corner, because we just knew the delivery was going to beat the first defender on the near post.

Centre midfield: Paul Groves

Was he a man, or was he a machine? From when he signed in 1992 until he left in 1996, Groves never missed a game. On his return in 1997/8 he played every minute of our 69 games. Reliable, consistent, honest, professional, diligent – Groves was the original box-to-box midfielder. He was our pink Duracell bunny. Strong in the tackle, a threat in the air and an eye for a goal or 12 every season.

Centre midfield: John Cockerill

This is a sneaky inclusion from my point of view as I have to admit that I never saw him play – his era was just before I started attending matches. But Cockers was the name uttered most by John Tondeur when I used to listen to matches on the radio. His incisive midfield play, coupled with his tenacious tackling and knack for scoring crucial goals, made him impossible for opposition players to mark out of a game.

Striker: Jack Lester

Ah, our very own Jack in the box! Twisting, turning and demoralising defences. Look – there’s a foot. Penalty! On his day, Super Jack was unplayable. He drew fouls from the opposition and was a real menace to both the other side and the referee. It’s a shame that his most prolific goalscoring days were after he left the Mariners, but Lester left a Jack-sized hole that has never truly been replaced in my heart.

Striker: Michael Boulding

Quick Mick, as we never actually called him, arrived as a former tennis player and left as a footballer. Hardly the most accomplished player, he visibly improved before our eyes, becoming unplayable by the summer and then departed for Villa. In his second spell he looked a proper striker, scoring 13 goals by Christmas. In the end he made running and scoring look deceptively simple.

Manager: Alan Buckley

Three promotions and no shortage of excellent football. What he achieved, especially in his first spell, seems even more remarkable the more I think about it. We were spoilt, really.

You can submit your best XI by emailing it to anthology@marinerstrust.com by 1st April 2015. Just a few things to remember:

  • Name no more than 11 players, who must have had at least part of their Grimsby career between 1971 and 2002
  • Say in which position each player will appear in a 4-4-2 formation
  • Name your choice of manager (from the 1971 – 2002 era)
  • Say which year you began watching the Mariners

Feel free to comment below on these choices. The hash tag #GreatGYXI is doing the rounds on Twitter if you prefer to get involved in the conversation that way.

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