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The Jack Reynolds Story

By: Alex Gerlis
Date: 29/02/2004

GRIMSBY Town are the only club in England who have provided national team managers for both England and Germany from the ranks of their former players. True or false? Well, the truth, as they say, is sometimes much stranger than fiction.

Home > Features > 2004 Features > The Jack Reynolds Story


Europe, 1940. The world is at war and a Grimsby Town team which the previous season had finished 10th in the old First Division and reached the FA Cup Semi-Final, is reduced to plying its trade in regional competitions. What should have been a golden age for the Mariners was never to materialise, with players of proven international class spending their prime years on National Service. Grimsby Town would never again reach the heights that it did before the war.

For one former Grimsby Town player the war had a far greater personal impact than having to negotiate the likes of Barnsley and Chesterfield (some things never change) in the North Regional League.

PG Wodehouse Jack Reynolds spent the war at a Nazi detention camp called Tost, in Upper Silesia. It must have felt a million miles from Blundell Park and even further from humanity. One of his fellow detainees was the author PG Wodehouse (left). His stay at the camp was brief; he was soon released and spent the rest of the war making radio broadcasts for the Nazis and was, frankly, very lucky not to be tried as a traitor. Being in the same prison as PG Wodehouse sounds like a punishment in itself.

How Jack Reynolds ended up at Tost is a fascinating tale and is featured in the recently published ‘Ajax, The Dutch, The War - Football in Europe During the Second World War’ by Simon Kuper. It’s now out in paperback, is published by Orion and is an excellent account of how football fared in Nazi Occupied Europe. It’s well worth reading.

Most of the book is about Dutch football and especially the story of Ajax and this is where Jack Reynolds comes in. After a career as a player in the Football League he became the manager of the German national team. By the outbreak of the war he was a coach at Ajax. He was caught in Amsterdam when the Germans invaded the city and as a British citizen was interned at Tost.

In his book, Simon Kuper describes "bowler-hatted" (presumably when he was off the pitch) Jack Reynolds as having "played outside-right before the Great War for various clubs, including Manchester City, Grimsby and Sheffield Wednesday, and eight times for England".

According to ‘Grimsby Town: A Complete Record 1878-1989’, only one ‘J Reynolds’ has ever played for the club. That was in the season 1904-1905, which all fits with Kuper’s account of his career. Jack Reynolds (apparently his real name was John) was 23 when he made his debut on 3rd September 1904 in a 0-0 draw at home to Barnsley and went on to play 29 times for the Mariners that season. His last game was a 0-2 defeat at Glossop (so, if you think things are bad now .....). The first of his three goals for Town was in a 4-0 home victory over Bristol City. Town finished 13th in the old 2nd Division that season and after that Jack Reynolds moved on.

Ajax tried to keep in touch with Reynolds during his internment. The club sent him letters and parcels, but after the war they had to report that according to a British newspaper, "Reynolds had died in a concentration camp".

But this kind of confusion was rife in the immediate aftermath of the war and it turned out that Reynolds was alive and well and had been repatriated to England.

He returned to Amsterdam in 1945 and resumed his job as a coach with Ajax and was with the club as they became pre-eminent in Dutch football. He remained in the city, where he died in 1962.

It’s only a small story, just a bit of trivia compared to much greater and more tragic events. But when we next paraphrase former Town manager Bill Shankly’s "football isn’t just a matter of life and death, it’s much more important than that", it’s worth remembering that for one former Mariner, nothing could have been further from the truth.


This site is by the fans, for the fans, and we will consider articles on any subject relating to the Mariners whether it be related to current news, a nostalgic look back in the past, a story about a player, a game or games in the past, something about Blundell Park or football in general. Click here to submit your article!

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This site is by the fans, for the fans, and we will consider articles on any subject relating to the Mariners whether it be related to current news, a nostalgic look back in the past, a story about a player, a game or games in the past, something about Blundell Park or football in general. Click here to submit your article!


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