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Slipped Through the Net: Andy Tillson
By: Dan Humphrey
Central to Alan Buckley's first spell at Blundell Park was the formation of a new backbone to the Grimsby Town playing staff. Buckley arrived from Kettering, and quickly applied his knowledge of non-league football to bring in some new recruits.
Within a few weeks of Buckley's arrival, the likes of Paul Reece, John Cockerill and Andy Tillson arrived at Blundell Park to play for Grimsby Town, then in Division 4.
Reece and Tillson tracked their former employer virtually directly, following Buckley from non-league into the professional game. The then 22-year-old Tillson, in particular, was a revelation. In Town's late 80's wilderness years prior to Buckley's arrival The Mariners lacked a quality centre-half.
Suddenly, from nowhere, Town had two top drawer centre-halves as Tillson formed a reliable partnership with Mark Lever (right). The pair flourished together and both barely missed a game as Town went from the fourth to the second division in successive seasons.
Tillson's form was such that big clubs came sniffing and the six foot defender went to QPR for £500,000 - the magntitude of the figure is put into perspective by the fact that it took eight years for the Mariners to pay the same amount of money for a player (Lee 'back to the North West please' Ashcroft from Preston).
Tillson was initially replaced by first Paul Futcher, and later Graham Rodger. The Mariners moved on, establishing themselves as a Division One side, without one of the key players who took them there.
Unfortunately for Andy, he was signed by QPR at the same time as they obtained fellow centre half Darren Peacock (left). Peacock was more successful in West London, and eventually went to Newcastle a for multi-million pound fee. Tillson found it difficult to establish himself at Loftus Road, and even returned to Blundell Park on loan in the 1992-93 season, albeit just for 4 games.
Later that season Tillson's career was resurrected by Bristol Rovers where he spent the majority of the Nineties, and now finds himself at Walsall, battling for promotion to Division One, supported by another Mariners old boy, Darren Wrack.
Tillson flourished in a Town team on its way up, but since then has had to content himself on a journeyman career spent largely in Division Two.
One can only wonder if Alan Buckley was tempted to bring the 34 year old Tillson back to Blundell Park this summer as a replacement for his ex-teammate Lever.....
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