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Where Are They Now? Grimsby Town’s Division Three champions 1979/80

By Neil Fissler

THE MARINERS had never known anything like it as they won back-to-back promotions for the first and only time in the club’s history.

In 1979, they finished runners-up to Reading in Division Four but went one better the following season by lifting the Division Three title.

Under manager George Kerr, they hit top spot at the end of January with a 3-0 win at Blackpool and never looked back as they lost only one of their last 18 games.

With local hero Kevin Drinkell top-scoring with 16 goals, Kevin Kilmore chipping in with 15 and Bobby Cumming contributing 14 they pipped Blackburn to the title.

Midfielder Bobby Mitchell, who along with goalkeeper Nigel Batch played all 46 games, says teams had difficulty working out their tactics.

“We didn’t play any different away from home than we did at home, though maybe we had to defend a little bit more,” he said.

“But we had a formula and nobody seemed to be able to suss out the way we played.

“We just applied ourselves at the right time and it seemed to gell. We had players who weren’t going to be good enough to play at the very top, the likes of myself, Clive Wigginton, John Stone and Mike Brolly,

“We could do a job at a certain level and then, with the young players like the Moore brothers, Tony Ford and Kevin Drinkell, we just came together.”

It was a season that few Mariners will ever forget as they lost 5-0 to Liverpool in the FA Cup at Anfield and reached the League Cup quarter-finals.

Wolves, who went on to win the League Cup, needed two replays to see off Kerr’s side, which emphasised just how difficult they were to beat.

Grimsby clinched the title on the last day of the season with a 4-0 win over Sheffield United.

They stumbled across the line after drawing three of their last five games.

“It is a great feeling, no matter what your level, to win your league,” said Mitchell.

“We had to be pretty consistent to overcome injuries and other problems.

“Towards the end of the season, you always feel you are starting to doubt yourselves when the finishing line gets into sight. You start to worry if you are going to do it.

“There was some relief at the end. I remember one game towards the end of the season when we went to Wimbledon. We were drawing 1-1 at half- time and there was a big argument in the dressing room because we felt we should have had the game sewn up.

“Then, I think we came out at the start of the second half and scored three early goals to win the game 6-3.

“We thought we were going to slip up, but we came through it.”

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BACK ROW

  1. George Kerr: Spent 13 years in management and is a pundit for BBC Radio Humberside.
  2. Mike Lester: A midfielder based in Openshaw, Manchester, who runs his own soccer schools in the North West and has coached at Man City’s academy.
  3. Gary Liddell: A striker who worked for the Employment Tribunal Service before his death in May 2015. His son, Andy, was a Scottish Under-21 international.
  4. John Stone: A right-back who opened his own sports shop in Grimsby and now owns the milkshake and fruit drink shop, Shake Shack, with his wife.
  5. Nigel Batch: Goalkeeper who ran the Royal Oak in Holton-le-Clay, South Humberside, before working as an interior designer as well as a painter and decorator.
  6. Harry Wainman: Goalkeeper who opened a sports shop and then took on the Saxon House Hotel in the Cleethorpes, South Humberside, area.
  7. Martin Young: A defender whose career was ended by injury. He is now a self-employed builder living in Melton Ross, North Lincolnshire.
  8. Clive Wigginton: A centre-half who went into the environmental services industry and is now senior operations manager for Ansor Environment.
  9. Kevin Moore: Defender and brother of Dave. He was Fulham’s safety officer, training ground manager and then a scaffolder in Hampshire. Died from frontotemporal dementia aged 55 in April 2013.
  10. Dave Moore: A right-back and one of five members of his family to play for Grimsby. He managed Scunthorpe and has been the Mariners’ physio since 2001.
  11. David Booth: A former left-back who went on to manage the Mariners and was the head coach of Lanexang United in Laos until earlier this year.

FRONT ROW

  1. Peter Wainwright: A striker who is still living in his home town of Grimsby and working as an export planner at DFDS.
  2. Dean Crombie: A defender who stayed in the game and has held various jobs at Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, where he is a scout.
  3. Shaun Mawer: A full-back who became a marine engineer with Humber Graving Dock and then in a family-run business, Maurice Mawer. He died in July 2010, aged 50.
  4. Bobby Cumming: A centre-forward who worked down the coal mines then coached in the United States, working as a finishing supervisor at MTA in Auburn, Indiana.
  5. Joe Waters: Republic of Ireland midfielder who settled in the United States, living in Tacoma, Washington State. He is now head head coach at Bellarmine Prep High School.
  6. Mike Brolly: A winger who became a science teacher at St Mary’s RC High School and then at Matthew Humberstone School in Cleethorpes.
  7. Tony Ford: A midfielder who went into coaching and management before moving into the insurance industry. He is now an independent consultant at Nugent Sante.
  8. Bobby Mitchell: A midfielder who went on to work for the PFA’S Football in the Community programmes at both Grimsby and Sunderland, where he now coaches in schools.

NOT PICTURED

Graham Cawthorne: A central defender who was business investment manager for Doncaster Council and is now college site supervisor at Kingsbridge College in Devon.

Phil Crosby: A full-back who took medical qualifications and is now chief clinical physiologist at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Kevin Kilmore: A midfielder who went into pub management in his native Scunthorpe and now runs the Pack Horse, in Louth, Lincolnshire.

Kevin Drinkell: A striker who, for 13 years, was a football agent. Now, a sales executive at Arnold Clark Mercedes in Stirling.

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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2 thoughts on “Where Are They Now? Grimsby Town’s Division Three champions 1979/80

  1. Phil Storr

    Thank you for the memories of a vastly underrated team and a manager in George Kerr who did not receive the acknowledgement of the Club or their peers for their magnificent achievement. They are the last GTFC team to have won a Divisional title – 36 seasons ago!!!

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