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The Yorkshire Ribber

By: Andrew Hubbert
Date: 08/02/2008 (Last updated: 03/03/2008)

GRIMSBY Town fans’ hatred towards anything Yorkshire is not exactly a well-kept secret. Yet we arguably have more reasons to love than hate ’Yorkies’ given the number of players the county has provided for the club over the years and continues to do so.

A number of Yorkshiremen have become loyal servants for Town, many making in excess of 200 appearances in the black and white shirt, whilst others have developed into terrace favourites. Moreover, a number of Town’s current squad originate from Yorkshire.

Jackie Bestall, arguably the club’s greatest player of all time and the man bestowed the honour of having the smallest street in Cleethorpes named after him, was born in Deighton, near Sheffield. Jackie represented England whilst playing for the Mariners and despite his height - or lack of it standing at only 5”2 - he was a diminutive midfield who captained the great side of the 1930’s.

The man who led that side off the pitch and perhaps the most successful Town manager of all time was also from Yorkshire. Born in Sheffield, Frank Womack oversaw the Mariners’ two F.A. Cup semi-final appearances and achieved a record fifth place in the old First Division.

Mr Grimsby Town himself, John McDermott originated from Middlesbrough, which, according to wikipedia at least, is officially part of Yorkshire. His record for the number of appearances in a Town shirt - 753 - will arguably never be beaten.

Harry Wainman meanwhile, is the goalkeeper who has most appearances in between the sticks for Town and was born on the north side of the Humber in Hull. An integral part of Lawrie McMenemy’s title winning side, ‘Jumbo’ was popular with the Town faithful, twice winning the supporters’ player of the year. A one-club man, he became a coach at Grimsby after his playing days were over.

Nigel Batch succeeded Wainman in wearing the Town goalkeeping gloves and was a member of the Town squad that achieved successive promotions in 1979 and 1980. Despite being born in Huddersfield, Batch was a crowd favourite who won the supporters player of the year in consecutive seasons.

Another Yorkshireman prominent in a successful Grimsby side, albeit of a different era, was the Halifax born Kevin Donovan. The last Town player to have scored twenty goals in a season, Donovan weighed in with a number of important goals, none more so than in the Division Two Play-off Final against Northampton. What would Town fans give to have such a prolific player in the current side?

Another important member of that side was also a Yorkshireman. Jack Lester, who was born in Sheffield, could often be relied upon to win the Mariners a penalty, even if it involved pulling his own shirt. A product of the Town youth system, a number of fans were keen for his return this summer.

Neil Woods also made a handful of appearances during the Wembley season. It was as a prominent member of the side that won promotion from the same division seven years earlier though that he had made a name for himself. Although born in York, ‘Woodsy’ has made Grimsby something of a second home and has now been youth team coach for a number of years. He oversaw their recent success in the Midlands Floodlit Youth Cup and the transition of a number of that side to the first team.

Steve Sherwood was another important member of Alan Buckley’s side from the latter’s first spell at the club. Born in Selby, the goalkeeper made over 200 appearances for the Mariners in six years and in three different divisions, despite joining the club after his 33rd birthday.

One former Town player with more links to the club than most, Ron Cockerill, was from the Sheffield area. He racked up an impressive 295 appearances during a ten-year spell at the club, mainly deployed in a left half position. His son John Cockerill (born in Grimsby) later went on to play and coach the Mariners during times of success during the 1990s.

Ron’s nephew Clive Wigginton also appeared in the black and white stripes and was also born in Sheffield. Clive amassed nearly 300 appearances for the Mariners over the course of two spells. It was during his second spell at the club though that he excelled, becoming a lynchpin of the Town defence in Division Two during the early 1980s.

Another defender to have clocked up nearly 300 appearances in a Town shirt, Dave Worthington was born in Halifax. Born into a footballing family, Dave was signed as something of a utility player but he later made the right back position his own with his trademark surging runs down the wing. He captained the club to the Fourth Division title in 1970.

Stewart Gray, born in Doncaster was another reliable performer from Lawrie McMenemy’s title winning side. ‘Stugger’, a centre half, made 237 appearances for the club, a demonstration of his commitment to the Mariners.

The current Town team meanwhile may be more Yorkie than even our Yorkshire rivals. No less than five regular first team players in the current Town side were born in Yorkshire. Phil Barnes and Tom Newey were both born in Sheffield, whilst Paul Bolland and Danny Boshell were both born in Bradford and Town’s longest serving player, Nick Hegarty, was born in Wakefield. Meanwhile, recent Town loanees Sam Hird and Rob Atkinson were born in Doncaster and Beverley respectively.

So what can we take from this? Eating dead rats from dustbins is a healthy diet for a wannabe footballer? We should love rather than loathe Yorkies? Maybe not, but Town have more to be grateful for toward Yorkshire than terrace talk would suggest given the number of loyal and quality ex-Mariners from the county. Moreover, with the increased turnover of players in recent years, the number of Yorkshiremen to pull on a Town shirt is only likely to increase, so it is something we had better get used to. But of course, that doesn’t mean that we have to stop telling Yorkies that we hate them. After all, it is an accustomed tradition to greet our neighbours in this way!

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