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Mentioned Part 59

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 11/01/2004

Home > Features > Mentioned > Mentioned #59


"No disrespect to the likes of Grimsby..."

sunday 11th january


From the BBC

The Wolves Chairman on winning the play-offs: "We're looking forward to going to Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal next season, and not Grimsby."

Spotted by marinersrus.

My fears for the heart and soul of the game (by Graham Taylor)

From The Telegraph

The conception of a Premiership has been in the making for much longer than is realised, but for it to be a topic of discussion during the Sixties did not fit in with the image of the game in those years.

I joined Grimsby Town in 1962, one year after the maximum wage was abolished. It was a bold decision. I had attended a grammar school and, in those days, class distinction meant that grammar school boys did not become professional footballers. It was seen as a waste of an education.

Having been brought up in a council-owned house in Scunthorpe, the issue of class distinction had not entered my life and, to the sound of a stern lecture from my headmaster, I left school after one year in the sixth form and joined Grimsby, who were then in the old Second Division.

All my school football had been played when the number on your shirt told everybody what position you played. A No 2 meant right-back, No 11 was an outside-left and the team formation was described as "W M", which meant that you had wingers, inside-forwards and wing-halves.

At the end of the game - win, lose or draw - it was three cheers for the opposing team.

I had already been converted from a centre-forward (No 9) to a right- half (No 4), and had gained a number of representative honours, not least playing for England Grammar Schools against our counterparts in Scotland, where I came up against an inside-forward called Andy Roxburgh. No one at Celtic's Parkhead realised they were watching future England and Scotland managers. It was no preparation for what was to come for me in the professional game.

Within a year, I had been converted to become a right-footed left-back (No 3) because there was no one else in the youth team to play that position. I had been deliberately kicked in a practice match by a senior professional because I had had the temerity to tackle him. I was out injured for two months.

I was told to join the players' union, which would cost me two and sixpence (12.5p) a month. I later found out that the players' representative had not enrolled me and had kept the money himself. I was not the only young pro that had happened to. A new formation called 4-2-4, which England had used for the first time when beating Spain 4-0 (with Bobby Robson and Johnny Haynes in midfield), was now the way to play. And, oh yes, I learnt how to swear!

But in September 1963, aged 18, I made my home debut for Grimsby against Newcastle United. Through injury we went down to 10 men - there were no substitutes then - but still managed to win 2-1. Fantastic, wonderful, elation - you name it. There is simply nothing to beat a winning dressing room. You soon learn, of course, that there is nothing worse than a losing one.

Some things never change. But I was now a first-team player and professional football was my life. Forty years later, I have chosen to step out of it. I owe the game everything and I have no intention of abusing it.

One of my managers at Grimsby - I had six in six seasons; one was a caretaker so often that I have to include him - decided we would use a "sweeper" in our forthcoming away game. The problem was he had only discussed this with the player he was going to employ in that position and he told the rest of us at the team talk three hours before the game.

We lost 5-1, and it was after the match that I admitted to another player that I had no idea what a sweeper was - other than realising that during the game the player given the task had played some 30 yards behind us all and had hardly had a touch of the ball. "Don't worry," was the reply, "we were all crap, but the manager picked the tactics so he will get the blame. By the way I've got a sweeper coming round to clean the chimney tomorrow. Shall I ask the boss if he wants him to call round? He might know what he's talking about the next time he plays one."

Ah, tactics. We all know how our team should play. The great thing about picking a team when you are not the manager is that your team can never lose because it never plays. Some things never change.

In the main, players win games and managers lose them. There has to be someone to take the blame. I cannot remember seeing Ramsey on the pitch at Wembley during the draw against Poland which cost England their place in the 1974 World Cup finals. By that time Alf had made enemies within the Football Association and they were in a position of power. No contest. Ramsey had to go.

In 1968, aided by the fact that Ramsey had not deemed it necessary to visit Blundell Park to assess my international potential - Sven would have come - I was transferred from Third Division Grimsby (yes the manager had got us relegated) to Fourth Division Lincoln City. The fee was £4,500 and my wife, Rita, and I bought our first house, a semi-detached house on the outskirts of Lincoln, for £3,200. It goes to show that transfer fees for professional footballers have always been way out of proportion to what is anything called sense. What's new?

I spent four years at Sincil Bank before injury eventually brought my playing career to an end. Shortly prior to that, Lincoln had dismissed their manager and I went from being one of 24 players to being the manager of 23. December 1972: I was the youngest manager in the Football League at the age of 28.

Spotted by Grim Rob.

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