League Two Form Guide
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The Paul Futcher Interview
By: "It's A Grim Exile"
THIS interview with Paul Futcher is in the latest edition of 'It's a Grim Exile' - a bi-monthly magazine containing news, views and items of interest both from and for exiled GTFC supporters. Details of how to subscribe to the fanzine can be found at the end of the interview.
On Lawrence's sacking
IAGE: You came to Grimsby from Halifax Town. Who was the first choice centre back at Halifax who kept you in the reserves and what became of him because he must have been one hell of a player.
PF: It was a lad called David Evans I think his name was, a very experienced player. He signed the same time as me and in theory we should have been the main backbone of the Halifax team. He was a good lad, and like me became a bit disillusioned with the whole thing at Halifax, that was more the problem - not so much me falling out with anybody.
What I was told it was going to be like it was nothing like, it was so unprofessional and shoddy - it just wasn't my cup of tea. I would have still been playing the year before in the first division with Barnsley and it's hard sometimes to drop down playing with players - in all due respect - who are not as good as what you are used to.
The manager, Jim McCalliog, to me wasn't organised and basically was a poor manager and that was it - I just said that I needed to move. It wasn't working out and to be fair to Jim he circulated my name saying I was available and that's when Grimsby came in for me. I think it was from when we played Grimsby that pre-season in the Yorkshire Cup and Buckley saw me then.
IAGE: Your style of playing was reminiscent of Bobby Moore - was the great England skipper an influence? If not, who had most impact on you as a footballer?
PF: It's funny, but when I first went to Luton as a 17 year old, they likened me to Bobby Moore. I didn't have a role model when I was young really - it was just the way I played. I was flattered because Bobby Moore was a great player and I used to watch him when, in fact I played against him once. Players I've admired have been centre halves who liked to get the ball down and play - Alan Hansen, Bobby Moore, and Beckenbauer - off the top of my head I can't remember really!
IAGE: Two of our members, Marcus Kravis and Tim Mosey, count themselves as two of the fortunate few who saw your goal against Boston. Did you mean to score it or not?
PF: Yes, I did actually! It was the last minute of a really frosty night and I remember it was a dodgy surface. I just got it and thought "Ah go on, I'll have a go", put my head down and hit it because I could strike a decent ball and I thought "I'll have a go" and it flew in and no-one was more surprised than me! To win the game as well, I was very happy, I was thrilled!
IAGE: From your time at Grimsby, how did your contemporaries compare in attitude and commitment with your contemporaries at other clubs?
PF: You mean the players at Grimsby? In the 4 years I was there, certainly in the first couple when we got promotion there were some very good players. Buckley was quite a big influence on me as a manager; he kept it simple, pass and move, pass and move. There were good players and a good spirit there. They were spot on and we had lot of success over about 3 or 4 years.
IAGE: Do you keep in touch with any of the players from your time at Grimsby?
PF: Yes, Jim Dobbin I speak to regularly, I speak to John Cockerill a lot. I'm not on the phone every other week to them; you bump into them now and again and have a laugh. I still speak to Tony Ford who's now at Barnsley as Assistant Manager. They were a really smashing bunch of lads. I was at Grimsby last year doing a little bit of Radio work and I bumped into quite a few of the lads - Paul Groves, Graham Rodger, John McDermott (IAGE: Now the management team). Yes, the" Dream Team"! It's always nice to go back, I have fond memories of Grimsby, I really have, and obviously I got my only promotion there so it'll always be special to me.
IAGE: Do you enjoy this kind of 'cult' status that you obviously have with Grimsby fans at any other team you have been with?
PF: I was not aware of it really - that's the truth. It wasn't until I left that somebody gave me some copies of 'Sing When We're Fishing'. I read a few of them and thought "I don't believe that" - I did not believe it! I had a good rapport with the supporters, they did like me and vice-versa and that was it.
I did have a good relationship with supporters and I think they appreciated the way I played or tried to play, certainly at Grimsby, certainly at Oldham, definitely at Luton, certainly at Barnsley. Everywhere I've been I was player of the year for 2 or 3 years. It's just the way I was, I tried to enjoy it and play the right way, looked after myself, tried to pass it and they liked that. They like when you give 100%, and if supporters feel you're doing that they can accept that you're not always going to play brilliant but if you give your all they appreciate that.
It's difficult for some players who don't perhaps get that kind of acknowledgement, some players give 100% but they don't run about like headless chickens all the time. Dave Gilbert, Gary Childs, they were outstanding players and they gave 100%. Paul Groves does. Jim Dobbin, I think, didn't always get the credit he deserved at Grimsby, but he was a dedicated pro and passionate in the way he played.
IAGE: Is it true that Danny Murphy is your Nephew?
PF: Yes. I don't see much of 'Murph'. He sees a lot of my Mum and my brother because they all live in Chester. He's a down to earth lad and he looks after his mother. She goes to every game and she's really proud, obviously we all are. Certainly this season he's begun to take his opportunity. He's still not completely taken on board by the supporters, he gets a bit of stick but by and large he gives 100% - he may not always play brilliant, but he's come on leaps and bounds and good for him - it's great.
IAGE: Did he ever ask Uncle Paul & Uncle Ron for tips when he was younger?
PF: We never saw much of him because we were always playing. When he was young he was like the top player from around that area and he was at Crewe from about 10. I spoke to him now and then, but not really.
IAGE: Your son Ben now plays for Stalybridge Celtic - how difficult do you find switching from Dad to Boss?
PF: A little bit at first when he came for the initial 3-month period. He plays in the same position as me, but he's nothing like me as a player or in physique - he's 6'5", he's a big tall lad.
What he does is settles me down a little bit, I try and be a bit calmer when I'm watching the game, we get on with it and basically we talk when we get home. He'll ask me "How do you think I did", and I'll say "Well how do you think you did" and we'll have a chat and take it from there. I'll try and help him within the game - at half time I'll have a go at him if I think I need to. We have to get on with it and he has to accept that, and he does - he's a good lad and he's a team player, he's totally committed.
IAGE: Does he get any stick from the fans?
PF: He did when he first arrived a little bit from just a small few, but I think he's won them over with his playing and his attitude. He's not a firm favourite, but I think they appreciate that he gives everything and he's potentially a good player.
IAGE: You've obviously got the measure of the conference now, are there any conference players that you rate very highly and you think will go on to bigger and better things?
PF: It's funny, I was thinking about that this morning when I was taking the dog for a walk! Managers often ask me if I've seen anyone - I've not seen loads. There are about 15 clubs that have come here today to take a look, obviously with Boston being top, and it'll be interesting to see those lads today.
Overall, not a great deal. You get a lot of ex-league players playing in the conference taking the drop down. I had 2 lads at Southport called Scott Guyett and Phil Bolland- both moved to Oxford. They're both central defenders but they're not established yet. Bolland has gone back to Chester, Scott Guyett is still there - he's an Australian lad. It's a big jump for them.
There are a couple of strikers, a lad called Gregg Blundell at Northwich who's got a chance and a lad called Robbie Talbot at Morecambe. It's difficult when you're watching sometimes, as you're watching your team and you can't always look at other sides, but no-ones jumped out and blown me away. I'm sure there is the odd one that'll come through. If they were that good they wouldn't be playing in the conference!
IAGE: Given the money that exists in the game now, and bearing in mid that a lot of lower league clubs are struggling, how important do you think Youth Academies will become in the future?
PF: I worked at Leeds for a year at the Academy, and all you are hoping for is to get one through, maybe one a year, maybe one every 2 years. Look at the money in the game now, the big teams go and buy don't they? I know that Leeds have got a few that have come through, and Man United have - a few years ago at Man United they all came through at once, but more recently there hasn't been a shed full.
I worked at an academy and the lucky lads at 15 get offered a scholarship, but there are a lot of kids that get treated not the best - they get told at 12 "Sorry, you're not good enough to make the next year", and there are a lot of disappointed parents.
For the smaller clubs, the likes of Grimsby, they need to have Youth set-ups because they're out on a limb and they need to try and get people there, and really tend to be seen to be doing that in that area. The really big clubs can afford to do it and pump millions in to it, and if you get a Harry Kewell or someone like that then it's justified.
They are good but I wouldn't go overboard.
IAGE: In your experience, do players take any notice of manager's team-talks (both as a player and as a manager)?
PF: Yes, I used to. Hopefully the manager has done his homework and has reports on players, on teams, how they play. He's got knowledge of the game, especially if he's played the game, you respect all that. I always used to listen but I think once they drag on past 10 minutes you lose something then. That's what I learnt from Buckley, top whack with 'Bucks' was 5 minutes, or 10 at the most.
At quarter to, this is the team, this is the way we want to play, we'll talk about them when we get their team, we'll go through set pieces when we get their team. A bit about us, what we've been doing in training, this is the way we're going to play. We know how we want to play. Then at quarter or 10 to 3 everybody's in, we'll go through the report, you'll start to go through picking set pieces up, this is your job, this is your job, you're doing this, this is the wall, you're picking him up etc.
IAGE: Short and snappy then?
PF: That's what I've learned, otherwise after 10 minutes players want to be getting changed, they want to get out and play. I keep it brief and that's what I learned off Alan Buckley. Keep it short, keep it brief, do your work at half time and do your preparation through the week.
IAGE: In your experience and opinion, makes a good team? Is it a good team spirit, a good coach, good facilities, a good manager or just the luck of having the right players at the right time?
PF: It can't be luck. You've got to have a good team spirit - that's vital. In the dressing room it's got to be right. Good players, Grimsby had good players when I went there - Tony Rees, Neil Woods, Dave Gilbert, Gary Childs - they had all played at a better level and were all quality players at that level. Good players that will work hard, make you want to get out there and play, take responsibility on the park, a good attitude.
Winners. Players that can give a bo**ocking, and that can take a bo**ocking. Good habits, especially off the field, are important.
IAGE: All round professionalism?
PF: Yes, a good attitude, how they conduct themselves. You get a couple of lads that might try it on, and they'll get found out and you get rid of them.
IAGE: So when you were at a club like Grimsby, did the team spirit extend to off the pitch?
PF: I didn't actually live in Grimsby, I lived in Holmfirth, but they were always out together, they were always close-knit, going out around Cleethorpes. There was a big camaraderie there with the lads.
IAGE: Do you think that transferred well onto the pitch then?
PF: Oh yeah, absolutely. It wasn't the biggest club but there was a good buzz in training, a good dressing room, and a good laugh. 'Bucks' was all right - kept his distance. The lads really mixed well.
I think that has been one of the downfalls at Grimsby, too many of the players have been there too long.
IAGE: When you dream which clubs colours are you wearing?
PF: I've got a soft spot for Grimsby because it was my last club and I got promotion there. I can't emphasis enough how much good football was played there, and I don't think people really appreciated how good it was. Well it was for me because where I had come from, Halifax. I've got a soft spot for Chester as it's my hometown club, I played there at the start of my career and my family is still there - I'm a Chester lad - even though they are in the conference! And Luton Town I suppose, it was a big move there. All the clubs I've played for I hold dear.
IAGE: Did you ever play against your Twin brother Ron in a professional game and what was the outcome?
PF: Yes. It wasn't until we were about in our late 20's/early 30's and I was at Barnsley, he was at Oldham. We played against each other about 8 times and he never scored. I don't think he ever won so I'd say I came out on top!
IAGE: And what's Ron doing now?
PF: He's working at Bury as Youth Team Coach
IAGE: Thank you Paul for your time.
This article is reproduced by permission of It's A Grim Exile. If you require further information about IAGE please send an e-mail with your name and address to Emma Gillingham
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