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Sir Stanley Matthews
Sir Stanley Matthews

It Started At Scunny

By: Geoff Ogley
Date: 04/03/2007

A recent item on the message board regarding some history provoked a comment about the war years when the Mariners played their "home" matches in Scunthorpe. It was there where I first became hooked on GTFC and became a life long fan

Home > Features > 2007 Features > It Started At Scunny


Positive John suggested that I must have many memories, etc. of those days. I have-and I thought that a few of today's fans may be interested in those long gone times.

The Mariners started playing their home games at the Old Show Ground early in the war-about 1940 I think. I'm not sure why but I understand that Blundell Park was taken over for other uses. There were many RAF units stationed in the area and we didn't know the make-up of the team until just before the kick-off.

A number of famous players turned out. I remember Peter Doherty the Irish international, Fred Kurz, Alex Dunderdale whilst locals such as Mall Millington and Nightingale often made up the numbers. The crowds in those days ranged between 2000 and 5000, although in a cup match against Sunderland, which included the great Raich Carter, over 12,000 attended. Of course you must remember, the steel works were working 24 hrs each day, so this limited the attendances. [Ed - note Scunthorpe did not have a league side until 5 years after the war finished].

On the resumption of league football following the war, the Mariners were in the 1st division, together with the likes of Brentford, Blackpool and Huddersfield (how the mighty have fallen). Our first match was away to Manchester United, played at Maine RD (Old Trafford had been badly damaged by bombing). We lost 2-1. Our goal was scored by McGowan, a signing from Dumbarton.

The following Tuesday evening we were at home to Wolverhampton. There were no floodlights in those days and in front of a crowd of about 18000 we managed a 0-0 draw. There was no crowd segregation in those days and young boys were passed over the heads of the crowd so that they could sit inside the fence. This was my first visit to Blundell Park through the wrought iron arches and into the old wooden Barrett Stand where the Findus/Stones stand is now.

I lived in Scunthorpe and it was difficult at times to get to Grimsby but I saw many great players play there. Stanley Matthews tore our defence to pieces, but missed a penalty. Stan Mortensen caused us some headaches also. But I saw the great Harry Betmead totally eclipse the famous Jock Dodds, the Everton and Scotland centre forward. I saw the majestic Harry Clifton control a game, Tommy Briggs play havoc in the opposition penalty area and tricky Willie Wardle show off his sublime skills on the left wing.

The team all got old together and by the 50`s we were in Division 2, but still drawing crowds of over 18000. New players that impressed me were Billy Cairns, a great servant, Billy Brown, a hard-as-nails fullback - we could do with him now, centre half Duncan McMillan-ditto, whilst Tommy Briggs was still knocking them in.

One match still very vivid in my memory was 1958 v Liverpool at Anfield, the opening match of the season. Our goalkeeper Clarrie Williams was injured just before half time and left winger, Jimmy Fell went in goal - there were no substitutes in those days - and played a blinder. We managed to fight out a 3-3 draw, as I was near the Kop end I had to cheer 'internally' each time that we scored.

Shortly after I left for Oz, but on my many return trips I always arrange to take in as many Mariners matches as I can. I'm as keen a fan now as I was all those years ago and the Mariners will always be my club - I'll take the 'ups' with the 'downs'. Thank you John.

P.S. For what its worth. My best player ever - Jimmy Hernon the elegant ex-Spurs inside forward, with ex-Man Utd Jeff Whitefoot a close second. My best match-Away to Oldham, early 1953. Pure football for 90 minutes. Result, a 1-1 draw in front of over 27000 fans.

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