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Slipped Through the Net: Jack Lester
By: Dan Humphrey
When playing in the black and white of Grimsby Town FC Jack Lester's trickery frequently infuriated opposition defenders, perhaps surprised by his skill and, for his size, his strength. Upon the departure of Brian Laws, Lester was thrown into first team action along with fellow youngster John Oster
While ex-boss Laws had farmed Lester out on loan to Doncaster, interim bosses Kenny Swain and John Cockerill had little hesitation in promoting Jack to the first team, to learn his trade from the free-scoring Clive Mendonca.
As Town dropped to Division Two, Mendonca and Oster were both sold so that Alan Buckley could rebuild the squad. But Buckley must have been impressed by Lester's development.
When the gaffer went to West Brom, Lester was one for the future, making the occasional substitute appearance in cup games. Now there was a vacancy up front, and Alan Buckley gave Jack the chance.
For some Jack Lester signaled hope in a new post-Woods/Rees fancy back flicks and few goals era. Early 90s: Town's forwards were too nice and too intricate. Here was a new type of home-grown striker, an instant fans' favourite, rapidly winning over the Town supporters.
Town in Division II were often a class above. The likes of Handyside and McDermott were too good for the division, as so were a few of Buckley's signings, such as Donovan and Davison.
But Lester was, to non-Town fans at least, the real surprise package. One can imagine opposition managers telling defences to look out for the experience of Lee Nogan and the sheer strength of Steve Livingstone, only to find Lester hassling them, and repeatedly winning freekicks and penalties from the opposition.
Jack's Mariners highlights would have to include a hattrick in just over 10 minutes against Oldham in the League Cup, and a very impressive display at Wembley versus Northampton in the play-off final - compensation for him missing out on the Auto Windscreens Wembley over Bournemouth win because of suspension.
Once Jack signaled his intention to leave the club, there were no shortage of takers, with Nottingham Forest taking advantage of the Bosman situation to snap him up mid-season for £300,000. Later there was controversy over the move, with Alan Buckley telling Sky Sports that Jack was sold to pay debts, while the board said they had to sell while they could still get a fee for the striker.
To be fair to Lester, the move was probably a sensible option. At Blundell Park, he was a regular, but injuries and suspensions hit our small squad, and even upon promotion, the Mariners could only afford two purchases - Stacy Coldicott and Lee Ashcroft. Meanwhile, Forest may not be the force they once were, but still harbour realistic Premiership aspirations.
After a slow start at Forest, the Sheffield born striker has settled in, and was a regular this season until he got injured. Maybe next season could see Jack join the ex-Mariners contingent (Croft, Oster, Mendonca, Davison) in the Premiership.
Although, Jack's City Ground career has been put on hold for the bulk of this season, (a hernia operation has seen him miss 3 months), he should be back anytime now - ready to form a partnership with the ex-Ipswich and Bury striker David Johnson.
Readers may also be interested to look at Dan's Jack Lester Interview
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