Cod Almighty | Article
by Rob McIlveen
13 May 2013
What very, very, sad news it was to read of Kevin Moore's premature death. I was fortunate enough to be a teenager in the mid-1970s, a time when Grimsby-area schools football was played at a level that, perhaps, will not be seen again. Wintringham Grammar School (as it then was) already had a reputation for producing talented footballers. When I joined the school in 1970, Duncan McKenzie had just left it. A lad called Kenny Smith had kept goal for England schoolboys, and Martin Young, who played nearly 100 games for Town, could have played at a much higher level had a knee injury not ended his career.
No doubt there were others, but the school will probably best be remembered for a group of players who 'graduated' at more or less the same time: Paul Emson, Tony Ford, Brian Klug, Dave Moore, and, of course, Kevin Moore. Although Kevin was a year older than me, our footballing paths crossed in the sixth form. I was an occasional bench-sitter for the first XI, and I got more opportunities than most to watch a contemporary play football in a completely effortless way. To my eyes, it was like watching Bobby Moore play, such was Kevin's ability to read the game and distribute the ball.
I remember one occasion on which the opposition winger went outside Kevin with ease, and then prepared to deliver a cross only to find that he did not have the ball. Kevin had taken it away from him after all. It wasn't a tackle – although Kevin could tackle hard when he needed to. It was a caress, a whisper, a sleight-of-foot. It was pure elegance, but without any suggestion to the winger that he'd just been made to look an idiot. That wasn't how Kevin played the game. No doubt he knew he was better than most, but it was not in his character to be big-headed. He was simply a very nice guy, who happened to be an outstanding footballer.
I also remember the day when the then Town manager, Tommy Casey, did his GTFC shopping. Recognising Town's financial limitations, and the town's untapped youth, Casey strolled around the touchlines at Clee Grammar, pointing at various players. Of course, one of them was Kevin, who had the distinct advantage over the rest of us of having played for England schoolboys! By the time I'd finished my sixth form studies, Kevin had already played nearly 100 times for the Town. Perhaps I'm being unkind to today's youngsters, but back in our teenage years putting on a black and white striped shirt was something that we would have willingly donated a body part for. And here was one of our mates actually doing it 50 or so times a year.
Alan Hansen was still playing then, but if he'd been a pundit he would have been purring about Town's elegant defender
Those of us nowhere near good enough to play for GTFC either got a job or went to university. In my case, it was the latter, but I'd regularly make the journey home and watch a game in the afternoon and enjoy a good drink in the Wheatsheaf in the evening, where Kevin and Dave were regulars. The winning goal against those bigheads from Portsmouth that had us all drooling in October 1978? Kevin Moore. A goal in a 7-2 thrashing of Darlington when Town were 6-0 up at half time? Kevin Moore. A masterful defensive display at Portsmouth in front of the MOTD cameras? Kevin Moore. Alan Hansen was still playing then, but if he'd been a pundit he would have been purring about Town's elegant defender.
My favourite memory, though, is of the whole of the 1979-80 season, when Town won the third division championship, were knocked out of the League Cup quarter-final after two replays, and played at Anfield in the third round of the FA Cup. Kevin didn't play in the game against Liverpool – it was strongly rumoured that they were going to sign him. However, he played in nearly every other Town game. He won us the match in a 4-3 thriller against Blackpool and, but for the width of the crossbar, would have scored a goal to beat Wolves in the League Cup quarter-final at Blundell Park. I still have the picture from the Grimsby Telegraph. The look on Kevin's face says it all. He knew we could win that game and, with the prospect of a two-legged semi-final against Walsall, could have got us to Wembley a good 17 years before we finally got there.
At Rotherham, towards the end of the season, Kevin came up for a corner and winked at his mates from the pub. In the final away game at Mansfield, I threw him the ball from behind the goal. "Are you in tonight?" he asked, meaning the Wheatsheaf.
"No, Kevin – I'm in a crowd of 10,000 praying that I'll see my home team play in the second tier of England football for the first time in my life, and I'm absolutely crapping myself." I didn't actually say that to him, though. After all, if the king of cool wasn't worried about the most important game in Town's recent history, then why should I be?
Of course, Kevin was in the PFA's divisional team of the year, just as he had been the previous season when we finished runners-up in the fourth division. Just as he'd go on to be a crowd favourite at all the other clubs he played for. Just as he should have gone on to see his kids grow up, become a grandfather, and spend his retirement modestly recounting his achievements to his grandchildren. Sadly, that won't happen, and that's what's so bloody unfair about it all.
I hope that GTFC read all the tributes to Kevin, and appreciate the enormous contribution he made to the club, and the deeply held affection that the people of Grimsby have for him. A friend of mine called Kevin a role model. I'll second that. How about the Kevin Moore Young Player of the Year Award? And how about a trophy big enough for a hundred names to be on it? I'll tell you what, GTFC – I'll buy the trophy. After all that Kevin did to make my experience of watching the Town so enjoyable, it's the least I can do.