Si Wilson and Steve
Al Wilkinson and Faith
John Pakey and Macca
Town made me do it
7 May 2003
Across the world people find inspiration in their pursuits or hobbies and subject all manner of items - alive and possibly not so alive - to this influence. Most commonly, people seek this spark when they need to name something: they feel the desire to personalise an item, rubber-stamp it with their own individual touch. Children, cars, homes, culinary creations, computer usernames and passwords - all examples of how far an emotionally involved activity can be taken. Names can be drawn from a character in a film, TV show or book; from actors, authors, celebrity cooks, politicians; or even be influenced by a favourite football team.
Which is where we come in. You see, Grimsby Town Football Club has done its fair share of influencing over time. You always read how this and that celebrity has named their kid or was named after their favourite G14 football club player, past or present. Hell, even Mr Bergkamp's dad was a great admirer of Denis Law.
And Grimsby fans seek to name their (male) children after their own heroes, with the potential to inflict untold and unpredictable levels of pain. Yet most of these people will suggest this is an act that they cannot resist, a desire they cannot repress. It's almost as if Town made them do it. Pity the child born when their dad who was besotted with Tommy Widdrington...
So, let's take for example, ooooh, me. If we're going to start humiliating someone, we might as well start at home.
A couple of summers ago I decided to give up the playboy lifestyle of rented property, late school-night partying, nubile young ladies on each arm, and a diet of takeaway food in exchange for a more 'settled' life. But with the conformist trappings of a mortgage, engagement and actually turning up to work reasonably awake, I decided that a commitment to children would be too much, too soon.
So, I thought I'd take a trip down to the local RSPCA. I'd 'babysat' the in-laws' cat a few months before and quite enjoyed the affection, the routine, the cat's reliance on me. Kids would have been a bit too much, money- and energy-wise, whereas a cat... I could just throw it outside when I wanted a break.
Plus there'd be the chance to name the cat after a Grimsby player. Well, one player in particular. Steve Croudson.
After witnessing the eager early performances of Town's young reserve goalie back in '99, several Pontoonites observed that Steve's agility was akin to that of a kitten, diving as he did onto the ball as if it were a ball of wool. As a result Steve became nicknamed - you've guessed it – "the Kitten".
So my (then) girlfriend and I spent a few hours looking at a variety of moggies. We got put in a room for ten minutes with some poor little thing, but it just wasn't right. Dismiss the fact that it had scratched and hissed at me as if I were its mortal enemy. It was just too old. It wasn't...a kitten.
This was partly an ethical consideration. Finding a kitten, as opposed to an adult cat, and then renaming meant I wouldn't confuse the mog. If I'd got an older puss that had been called Tiddles or Ginger or some other stupid cat name and then started calling it Steve, it'd have been pretty confused. "Come on Steve," I would call; and this cat would sit and look at me as if to say: "But my name is Flash" (Flash being a good nickname for a Town striker, admittedly). The younger the prospective cat, the easier the brainwashing - I mean acceptance of being called Steve - would be.
Eventually I found the cat of my dreams. There were two together - one a young kitten, the other a couple of months older. They'd been in for a few days. The older had a silly cat name - Misty. The prospect of inflicting two Town names on these animals flicked into my mind. But I had to stand by my morals. It was too late to change her name. But the younger one - he was ripe for change.
The omens were good. His previous owners had called him Tigger, presumably after the bouncy companion of Winnie The Pooh. And if the feline epitomisation of Town's Stevie needed anything, he needed to have that kitten-like bounce.
So, the fees were paid and the cats were picked up later in the week to settle into their new home. We had to buy a cat box to take them home. I have to say Steve looked quite at home in the box - another sign! Although, to the rest of the world, probably a desperately tenuous one.
Once Steve was released into our home I looked for further resemblances between him and his human namesake. He certainly was nimble when a ball was kicked towards him. He'd dart over and try to stop it, with a reasonable level of success. More often than not, though, his reflexes were powerless against some of my efforts and he'd end up having to retrieve the ball from behind him. But this sounds more like a day in goal for Town's first-choice keeper rather his understudy.
At this point I need to recount an event in September last year. Steve was let out one night, without reappearing at our door until two mornings later - limping and very much the worse for wear. He'd clearly been hit by a car (it might have been Livvo practising for another bout of keeper killing, but I doubt he trains on the Leeds ring road). After about three weeks of recovery the vet advised us that Steve would have to lose his front left leg. This was pretty heartbreaking. But at the same time, Steve Croudson was indisposed with a shoulder injury. Wondering if the two were linked, I spent several days in mortal fear that Town's young goalie might also be looking at an amputation.
Sometimes I have to explain to people why my cat is called Steve. Usually they will complain: "Steve's not a cats' name." I tell them it is. "My cat is called Steve, therefore it is a cat's name." They counter that it is not, however, a traditional cats' name. Do they not realise how few people named their children after cities or characters from Shakespeare plays until the Beckhams did? You'd think people would worry about what they called their kids above what they call their cats. Steve's a name. If it's good enough for a human, it's good enough for a cat.
If pressed and I have to explain fully how Steve got his name, I just get bewildered looks - even from Town fans. [I can vouch for that – Ed.] A few laugh and reckon it's a bit daft. But it's no worse than naming your house after your favourite Town player.
As for Steve's feelings on the matter - he's only a cat. It's not like a cat understands why it's lumbered with a name. If Stevie Croudson were to nip by and see my cat, the feline would be unfazed and totally unaware of the meeting's significance. As you'd expect. He's a cat and he is unable to reason.
Still, as unlikely as this meeting is to happen, I'd pay to see it. The three-legged cat meeting the player he was named after. I wonder what admission prices to Blundell Park for cats are...
With thanks to Grimsby Town Football Club for the picture of Steve Croudson
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