Mr Tony Butcher’s pick 'n' mix player pot pourri

Cod Almighty | Article

by Tony Butcher

17 February 2015

Tony, reluctantly, marks your card for the GreatGYXI player poll...

I don't like 'best XI' lists. They are just lists of unfathomable favourites vaguely remembered with nostalgia-bending logic and proportion. How can you compare Jack Lewis with Jack Lester? Jack Lewis lived in an era when Town players weren't showered with cars or cash, so he just had a great big moustache. Jack Lester used to fall over a lot, and fell over better for others. A lot of cash fell our way though.

But I rashly promised to contribute when under the influence of powerful medication. I'm better now, the rash has gone, but I'm ruing the rashness of the promise. Oh well, if we must. You lot out there are going to overlook the deserving, who you think poor, and elevate the flash, who I panned. I know no-one is going to pick Tommy Widdrington though. None of you are totally insane.

Here goes: I've even thrown in a reserve team to boot (and in one selection, that was his raison d'être).

I set myself very simple criteria when sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of our receding memories of what once was and nearly could have been. I had to have seen them play for Town. Oh, and no loanees, no mysterious Italians with dubious contract status, and absolutely no-one signed by Mike Lyons or Brian Laws – that's guilt by association. Stand back and gasp at the omissions; be staggered by the inclusions.

No Tony Rees or Enigmatic Neil Woods, nor such icons as Bobby Cumming? I never saw Matt Tees in a Town kit. Harry Wainman was just the bloke who gave us the Grimsby Schools Under-14 Basketball Trophy in 1979.

It's a balanced team, even if you think I'm imbalanced for rejecting your own personal favourites. Of course it's nonsense, but it's my nonsense, not yours.


Jeez, how did that happen? Am I mad? No, I have a memory, and it doesn't exclude all that was good in his first couple of seasons. Paul Crichton was very good for a couple of years in a very good team. Coyne was just a shot-stopper, while Davison benefited from the great defence of '98. They had flaws too, you know.


Anyone who doesn't choose Gary Croft is much too young, wilfully contrary or officially an absolute idiot. He was sober and superb with both feet. He was sold at the right time to the wrong club.


Oh come on, please. I won't insult you by mentioning the name of the lord of all full-backs.


Lever, Nicholl, Moore, Wiggington, Tillson and Smith. Ruddy marvellous and ruddy rugged. But they aren't Futcher and Handyside. Brains not brawn, a pair of pure silk stockings in Town's most seductively sensible defence. Purrrrrrrrrrrfect.


Do you want your wingers to sprint or slink? Do you want a team or a team of individuals? Oster was, and is, a beautiful footballer. It was clear from his very first touch that he was a talent beyond our ken. Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony Ford bedazzled and bewitched; Donovan ran quickly in a straight line. But you know, that just isn't enough for me. I can't go beyond the dazzling diddymen: Childs and Gilbert.

No-one could volley like Childs, and Diddy Dave wowed immediately, a man clearly slumming it in the fourth: a portent for our near future back then in the past. He grew as we grew and we all grew together. They were there at the start and end of something wonderful, and were integral to Buckley's whirligig.

Central midfield

I shall be thrown out of the family home for not selecting Burnett, for Wayne is officially wonderful in this house. But it's Wayne or Waters. The little Irish bundle of perpetual motion would be a perfect foil for Paul Groves, who cannot be omitted. That's an order. It has to be Joe Waters – we paid for him, he's ours forever.


I'm sorry, you misty-eyed Mariners, but Clive Mendonca only played half of every season. When the clocks went back so did his lumbar, and Town were lumbered with decreasingly effective loanees. Drinkell was pretty cool, but played in an up 'n' under team which thrived in mud.

You just had to be there to understand the exhilaration of the balmy days of the early to mid-80s. Goals, goals, goals galore. Lund and Wilkinson were the great lost wonders of our age: such a combination of pace, skill and calm finishing which terrorised a division and excited the nation. Look at Lund's stats for his time at Town. Now that's what I call striking. Sold at the wrong time to the wrong club by the wrong manager. Those two were magnificent mustard.

The team in full

GK Paul Crichton
RB Sir John McDermott
LB Gary Croft
CB Peter Handyside
CB Paul Futcher
CM Paul Groves
CM Joe Waters
RW Gary Childs
LW David Gilbert
ST Paul Wilkinson
ST Gary Lund

Manager: hail Caesar, hail Alanus Buckleyus

Are you still reading? There is a reserve team, too, for you to get all het up about because it didn't contain giants such as Mark Hine or Ashley Fickling.

Second eleven

GK Aidan Davison
RB John Stone
LB Tony Gallimore (you need characters in the dressing room)
CB Chris Nicholl
CB Kevin Moore
CM Jim Dobbin
CM Wayne Burnett
RW Tony Ford
LW John Oster
ST Clive Mendonca
ST Kevin Drinkell

Manager: Lawrie McMenemy, despite him being unnecessarily rude to my grandad in Cleethorpes council offices in 1973

To take part in the GreatGYXI player poll, send an email to giving your team, your manager and saying when you first started watching Grimsby. The team should play in a 4-4-2 formation and the players and manager should have been with Grimsby some time between 1971 and 2002.