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Slipped Through the Net: Gary Croft
By: Dan Humphrey
Croft - Grimsby's youth system's very own Mr.Versatile. Just as well considering the tradition of nurturing one-position players like McDermott, Lever and Handyside. Gary's Mariners career saw him play left back, right back, anywhere in midfield, and when injuries hit, up front and at centre-back.
Croft achieved the almost impossible feat, at least in the 90s, of being a Grimsby player capped by England at under 21 level.
Many liked Croft for his confidence on the ball, or his interplay with Dave Gilbert on the left-wing. Opposition midfielders often seemed shocked to find such an adventurous defender.
Mind you he CANNOT play centre-half, he's too small. Anyone else remember a trip to Oakwell one festive season, where the Mariners lost 4-1 in the pouring rain?? Croft's only appearance at centre half I believe.
Crofty's time at Blundell Park was ended by our friend (?) Mr.Brian Laws accepting a then club record bid from big-spending recent Premiership Champions Blackburn Rovers. But true to the ill-fortune of those who depart Blundell Park, the bubble had just about burst at Ewood Park, and Crofty's chances were limited, and Blackburn returned to Division One.
Then he moved back across the country to Ipswich. A side who had repeatedly tripped up in the Div I playoffs. What were they thinking? Signing a former Grimsby player? Obviously they were oblivious to our curse! Yet Ipswich were promoted, and now we find Mr.Croft is the most regularly playing Town old boy in the Premiership today.
Naturally, Croft did not escape misfortune. Last season, he was charged with perverting the course of justice and motoring offences, was sent to prison for a short spell, including Xmas 1999, and then gained the dubious accolade of being the first professional footballer in the UK to play football with a security tag strapped to his ankle. Well, at least it ensured that he could not hide if his side played badly.....
Anyhow, Croft now finds himself at a club rather similar to Grimsby in the early 90s: a small underrated club, packed with hard-working players and no primadonnas. The main difference: the other Town are riding high in the Premiership....
Readers may also be interested to look at Dan's Gary Croft Interview
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