The greatest Grimsby Town players of all time
Nestled on the southern side of the Humber estuary, Grimsby Town has been a side that has experienced it all during their long existence. The Mariners have experienced action as part of the English top tier in years gone by yet have also been a non-league side throughout several parts of their lifespan. Yet this hasn’t stopped a wealth of colourful characters shining at Blundell Park. Being the only side from Lincolnshire to participate in England’s top division and having triumphed at Wembley on several occasions, there have been stars that have made headlines at the club. So just who are some of Grimsby’s most famous sons?
When Grimsby won promotion to the English First Division in 1934, it came with Jackie Bestall wearing the armband. Known primarily as an attacking midfielder, Bestall could play sublime passes into the penalty box and also convert chances when given the opportunity. His 11 goals during the 1933-94 season played a big part in regaining promotion to the First Division in what was a career-defining season. Furthermore, it led Bestall to become the club’s first ever England player when he earnt his first and only cap for the Three Lions in 1935. When he retired in 1938, Bestall had made 427 appearances for the club and scored 76 goals. His legacy remains today having a road named after him in Cleethorpes – the only player from the club to endure such an honour.
There have been few shining examples to come through the club ranks quite like Gary Croft. Croft’s versatility made him a key cog immediately after debuting for The Mariners in 1992. With strong passing, tackling and handling of pressure, he could be deployed as a defensive midfielder as well as anywhere within the backline. During his time at Blundell Park, Croft primarily played as a left-back for almost 200 games for the side. It also saw him earn a call-up to the England U21 squad in 1995 showcasing his rising reputation. This brought in plenty of suitors and it’d be Blackburn Rovers who prized Croft away from the club in 1996 as he left for a then club-record fee of £1.6m. It’d be start of a career that would see Croft also shine for the likes of Ipswich and Cardiff later in his career.
When local lad Tony Ford made his debut for Grimsby in 1975, few would hardly believe it was to be start of a record-breaking career. From there, Ford would spend the 28 years playing professionally for a host of different sides. He spent more than his fair share with his hometown club though as he anchored the midfield for much of the late 1970s and early 1980s. After leaving to join Stoke in 1986, it would be another 5 years before he returned to Blundell Park re-joining in 1991 from West Brom. He’d play at the club for another three years before leaving to join Scunthorpe in 1994. When Ford retired in 2002, he had astonishing played 931 league games altogether in his career – a record in British football that stands to this day.
Many would argue that Grimsby Town’s finest days came in the 1930s and much of this success came thanks to the goals of Pat Glover. The Welsh international joined the club form Swansea in 1929 and obliterated opponents whenever he received the ball in the penalty area. He was particularly deadly in their Second Division title win during the 1933/34 season where he scored 42 goals that season. He remained with the club until 1939 when he left to join Plymouth Argyle just before the start of World War II. During his 10 years with Grimsby, Glover scored 180 goals in 227 games making him the club’s all-time top scorer. Amazingly, this is a record that stands to this very day.
There are few players who has won the hearts of Grimsby fans quite like Clive Mendonca. Mendonca’s predatory instincts as a striker were on full show during his time with The Mariners always pulling out vital goals to keep the club pushing to reach a new heyday. Mendonca joined the club in 1991 after lacklustre spells with both Sheffield United & Rotherham. His career took off when he played at Grimsby scoring 60 goals in just under 160 games for the club. His form was enough for them to become a regular presence in the second tier of English football for much of the mid-1990s. It even earned him a move to the Premier League in 1997 when he left the club to join Charlton Athletic. Mendonca’s time at Blundell Park is still enjoyed by fans to this day where they named him the club’s cult hero in 2005.
There has perhaps been no player more dedicated to Grimsby than perennial defender John McDermott. Coming through the youth ranks of the club, McDermott debuted for the club in 1987 where his resilience and determination won kudos with colleagues and fans. From there, it began an endless streak of appearances for Grimsby who he would appear regularly all the way into the 21st century. It was during this time that saw McDermott play in every tier of the English lower leagues enjoying every emotion with the club. The highlights came as being part of a side in 1998 that won both the Football League Trophy and playoff promotion to the First Division. McDermott remained with the club until 2006 when he retired from the game. After notching up 751 appearances for Grimsby in total, he smashed the club’s appearance record in a career that also saw him receive a special achievement award from Grimsby in 2007. A true legend to The Mariners.
The post The greatest Grimsby Town players of all time appeared first on Colossus Blog.