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Kevin Donovan Interview
By: Richard Lord
IN an exclusive interview as part of The Fishy's new "Slipped Through the Net" series, Richard Lord caught up with Kevin Donovan to talk about his time at Blundell Park.
Were you surprised you scored so many goals in your first season with Town?
I'd never ever scored 20 in a season. That was just beyond everybody's expectations, mine as well. The most I'd ever got (in a season) was 13, so..
How did your move to Grimsby materialise?
I was out of contract down at West Brom. We never really agreed terms so I thought it was time to move on. Alan Buckley had been in charge of me for a couple of years at West Brom, and he gave me a phone call in the summer. He asked me if I would be interested, I said 'yes' and within a week everything was done and dusted.
You came with quite a high price tag. Did this affect you in any way?
No, not at all. The people who are moving for Â£3-4 million might tell you different but you just get on with it really.
Can you recall your full league debut for the Mariners?
I can remember it being pretty uneventful actually, personally and for the team as well. Not brilliant memories of it but it wasn't that bad, I've had worse.
Can you remember your first league goal?
Yes I can. From a penalty, the first penalty I'd ever scored since turning professional. I don't think anyone fancied it, I just got there and thought I may as well. I got up and took it and that was it.
So did you have ambitions of being Town's regular penalty taker then?
No, didn't even enter my head.
What was Alan Buckley like as a manager?
Good. Players knew what he was about. He knows what he wants, he's got one style of football and doesn't change it so it's not complicated for players to follow. Brilliant to work for.
Are you surprised to see he hasn't gone on to achieve more ever since?
I wouldn't say 'surprised', I would say 'amazed' really. Seeing who's about and managing what, with clubs and the state of football at the minute, especially the lower leagues, for somebody like him to be out of work is criminal.
Any games that stick out in your first season?
The obvious one is the Play-Off semi-final second leg at Blundell Park when it was absolutely packed to the rafters. Just one of those things, it was just unbelievable, the atmosphere. I scored the goal and that just crowned it off really - a brilliant night.
Are there any special or spectacular goals that come to mind?
The one at Burnley springs to mind and one earlier in the season against Northampton as well. It wasn't one of the best of goals but the one against Fulham - the goal that took us to Wembley - probably gave me the most satisfaction than any of the other ones.
What was the whole Wembley experience like?
It passes you by very quickly. I've been lucky enough to play there three times. When we went up through the Play-Offs, that was my third time there so I took a step back and took more in. As long as you win it's a great place to be.
Can you remember the events that led up to your winning goal?
I can remember Wayne Burnett getting the ball and, as he had done so often that season, fed it through the middle and I think it was Jack Lester who took somebody out - looked like a free kick - it fell to my feet and then it was just a one-on-one with the keeper.
How did you and the team celebrate afterwards?
As you would probably expect.
Because you didn't have time to celebrate after the Bournemouth victory did you?
That's what we'll tell you! No, we didn't have much time what with the Carlisle game two days later but we did sneak one or two drinks in, even though other people might tell you different.
The following season saw you in and out of the team.
I never ever got going that season. It was just a disaster from start to finish. I had a back injury. That was the main one that put me out for so long, I picked that up in pre-season and I never really got over it. Even when I returned I was still playing with it and it was hampering me, even though we finished quite high.
Why did Town finish so high?
Like I've said to a few other people, the main thing up there is spirit. We had such a good spirit up there, coming off the back of what we had done the previous season. It didn't surprise me at all.
What were Burnett, Lester et al like the play with?
Good. At the end of the day Alan Buckley knew what he was buying, what he was getting and knew the personalities of the players as well. We blended off the pitch and obviously on it as well.
How come Jack Lester won so many penalties?
We know Jack quite well. I can't remember how many penalties he got for us that season but it was untold and we just knew that if he gets a touch he goes down. If you're playing on his side it's brilliant. If you're on the opposition you'd want to kill him! But that is just the way he is.
The following season was a better one for you personally but the team got dragged quite close to the relegation places.
It was just one of those seasons really. It was a case of trying to stay in there and we have done ever since.
Town are never big scorers and never have been since our return to Division One in 1998. Why is that?
Games were either won by the odd goal or two. It's just the step-up in leagues and the better players you have to play against so scoring goals is so much more difficult.
What did you make of the departure of Buckley and the arrival of Lawrence?
It was unexpected at the time. We were only two games into the season so it just came out of the blue really. The people wanted a change and they decided that was the time to do it but it was a strange time to do it.
At the end of the day he's experienced. He knows what he wants, very similar to Alan in that respect. He also plays one way and that's it.
What about the foreigners?
We needed them, to be honest. We had such a small squad so we needed players. Without them we would have struggled. With just two or three injuries, we needed to cover positions.
Your contract was up at the end of the season. At what point did you think that your stay at Blundell Park might not extend beyond the summer?
I probably knew four months before the end of the season. The way things were panning out I thought I might be moving on.
And your last game for Town?
Against Fulham, yes. Two or three players probably knew they weren't going to be there the next season but we had a good spirit and I don't think any player backed out, myself included. And we won, Grovesy scoring.
When did you become aware of Barnsley's interest?
I'd heard of interest from quite a few clubs, around January time when I was allowed to speak to other clubs.
Were you close to signing for any other club?
To be honest, looking back I probably wasn't because this is the perfect location for where I wanted to be. Living in Leeds it's 20 minutes down the road.
What was it like to play against Town at Blundell Park the next season?
Strange, after being there so long. We got beat so that didn't help.
It wasn't bad. A section of fans aren't going to be happy but they don't know the full facts and never will. I made the decision because I thought it was the right one. But the majority had no problems at all.
Pouton dived to get Miller off, didn't he?
Ah well, the less said, the better. It was just one of those things.
Were you surprised to see Lawrence get the boot?
Everybody knew that Groves would be manager one day. It was just a matter of time. Again, the people in charge decided it was time for a change and Grovesy was going to be the obvious choice. It's never a surprise in football now when you see a manager get sacked.
Describe Groves for us?
He's probably the best pro around. He's the best professional I've worked with, I played a good 12 months with him down at West Brom as well and he was exactly the same. He's just the ultimate pro, captain as well, same thing and it doesn't surprise me that he's gone on to become manager.
He headed a hell of a lot of goals in the promotion season.
I made all his goals actually. I made him look a good player.
Will he go on to become a top manager?
No doubt about it. The amount of work that he puts in and the dedication he has as a manager and a player still deserve to go on to better things and I think he will. I know for a fact he is doing everything he can to keep that club in the division and I just hope he does.
Down at Barnsley.
It's not gone well, not at all, from start to finish. Clubs have certain times when they go through a bad patch. This is our bad patch. Things aren't going well off it as well as on it. I've got two and a half years left and there's time to change it. We're down there, it's a relegation battle. I started the game down at QPR, it's my first start in nearly 11 months now so it's nice to be getting back and playing on the field.
Finally, what do you think you brought to Town?
I think I just went in there and played the style fans like to see. I think Grimsby are used to having wingers, a bit of a tradition of theirs, and I think I fitted in.
Any Town characters to talk about?
It's hard to divulge in stories! I travelled in with Livvo for 12 months and I know him really well and he is a funny fella. The one who's probably got the most stories is Mr Gallimore. The less said, the better!
Next: Kevin Donovan Fans Piece
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