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Old Fart Reminisces

By: Bar Larder
Date: 18/07/2000

An Old Fart Reminisces

March 1999

Si's Heroes and Villains page has given me the chance to bore everybody else with 'Tales of Yesterday'. Back in the mists of time as a teenager you have heroes - people whose picture you cut out of the newspaper and made into a scrapbook, people whose portrait in 'Fab 208' got stuck on your bedroom wall...

I remember the Lower Sixth Common Room walls being covered with posters of Che Guevara, Bruce Lee, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Plant, Rodney Matthews' Yes artwork, Peter Marinello (duh) and... the 1971-72 Mariners squad.

Such was the impact that this team had on the inhabitants of Grimsby and Cleethorpes, that even the "Clementinas" of Clee Grammar got swept along. No greater praise could be lavished, than to see Basil Rathbones' and Peter Framptons' mugshots side by side.

These were great days: always in the company of your friends, and always another Saturday or Tuesday to look forward to. The only money worries were; could you save up enough pocket money to afford the next away trip, and the only stresses were over a year away and called 'A' levels.

Often it is a difficult argument to uphold, when extolling the 'greatness' of a team from another era, but I can say without doubt that the excitement and fervour generated by the success of Big Mac and his team, was, for me, the best of times. To be in a crowd of over 20,000 emotional Mariners fans at BP was a real high, that I shall remember forever.

The crowd and the team were as one; it was a team of quiet achievers, no prima donnas but guys who gave everything in effort. What they did was to provide a total focus on the local area, which enabled everyone to share in their success.

Big Mac took the players out into the community (hospitals, docks, factories, schools), and it meant everything. People who were not normally interested in football, all came along with the buzz; the media who, as now, neglected us, swarmed all over BP. (Nobody worked PR like the Big Man.)

The difference in wages between the fans on the terraces and the players was still reconcilable; we could identify with these guys, they were true heroes.

Reading DP's brilliant interview with Sir Matt Tees, it is easy to pick up the humility of the time.

Stuart Brace

"...Brace could outrun any defender..."

My own hero then was Stuart Brace - his partnership with Tees was prolific. Brace could outrun any defender, even with 20 yards to make up. He once told me that his idol had been Jimmy Greaves (before the bottle days), and his greatest moment in football had been the Championship winning Town team. Snap! (1972, NOT Greavsie!)

We could always expect to see goals-a-plenty; between them Tees, Brace and Hickman scored over 60 by the time Wortho lifted the 4th Division Trophy. Goals add to the sheer glory of it all; don't they just!

However, the electric atmosphere at BP home games was not matched at some away fixtures...

I recall getting on a coach at midnight for Bournemouth, and arriving at 7am for a 3pm kickoff, being smacked in the face by a wet ball at Shrewsbury (God it stung!), and being told on the M62 that the match at Blackburn was postponed because of fog, when it wasn't!

By far the most vivid memory of being 'on the road' came at Brentford. Town had beaten the Bees 1-0 in a bad-tempered sort of game.

Just as our coach was pulling out of Griffin Park precincts, some dickhead chucked a brick through the coach window, where a girl behind me was cut by shards of glass. A group of yobbos, fired up by this action, started to thump the sides of the coach. The police were not much use (plus ca change?).

Only the quick actions of the coach driver saved us all from a potentially dangerous situation. He put his foot down and barged the yobbos out of the way and sped the coach out of West London.

Another real HERO. And his name... Bill Osborne! Yes, it is true.

So there we are, let's cut the echo of violins and hope that times like these return soon to Grimsby. The current success is laudable, but where is that atmosphere, that excitement, where are those working-class heroes? I know.... one now lives in Sydney, and I married the other (long-haired) one!

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