Cod Almighty | Article
by Pat Bell
11 September 2003
Stacy Coldicott ought to be the dullest player in the squad, someone whose main claim to fame is being the husband of an ex-Big Brother contestant. Write down: "utility player, happiest doing the spade work in midfield" and you ought to have him in best programmese. But for some reason you don't. Expressing a strong opinion about Stace is a sure way to start an argument.
Alan Buckley brought Coldicott to Grimsby in the 1998 close season. It was on the back of the two Wembley appearances, so no one particularly noticed that he came from West Bromwich Albion. Or if they did, it was written off as a harmless eccentricity: "Buckley's bought another Baggie - but Donovan came from there and he's OK." Just over a year later, people started to notice: "Another bloody Baggie, just like that useless Donovan."
His first appearances were on the right wing. During the time Lenny Lawrence convinced himself and possibly Danny Butterfield, but certainly no-one else, that Danny B was a playmaker, Coldicott also played right-back. I remember the confusion, pointing and ultimate ganging-up by which Pouton and Coldicott once used the excuse of a substitution to despatch Danny firmly to right-back in order to resume their midfield partnership. For Coldicott's natural berth is a holding role in midfield.
He doesn't quite fit the stereotypes that go with the role, however. He isn't dirty enough to be the programme writer's "fans' favourite". He plays within his limits, but isn't "Mr Consistency" either. He is injured too often, and gives the occasional hint that there could be more to his game than just getting in the way of the opposition, winning the ball and giving it to the nearest Town player. I still relish the memory of the long-range pass with which he set up a one-nil win at Fulham - one of those occasional acts of larceny against a richer club that make hopeless, hopeful away trips worthwhile.
At his best he is never far from the action. He doesn't score many goals, but I've seen a couple of them, and both came from his willingness to get up with, and beyond, the strikers. His critics, though, will say that he plays too deep, and becomes peripheral. In one of those rare moments when a messageboard thread generated light rather than heat, it was pointed out that Coldicott is more popular among the travelling support, which may reflect this; he is the man for when you are holding on to what you've got.
Coldicott doesn't take risks. Had Burnett and Donovan stayed fit and in form after Wembley, he might have been ideal as the "unseen presence - the Mariners play better when he's in the side." Instead, he became a scapegoat for our lack of creativity, a man who fills you with frustration when the ball is at his feet: 15 minutes to go and Town one down, but still he won't release the strikers.
Partner him with a dominant midfielder - an in-form Pouton or a young-again Groves - and the limits he places on his game merge into the team effort. Go back a season or two to a home game against Watford, just as Blundell Park was beginning to believe we could avoid relegation. Without a lot of chanting, the atmosphere was thick with commitment, and Pouton and Coldicott were the lightning rod for that will, turning the midfield into a no-go area for the opposition. We came from behind to win, a messy goal from a lame-looking cross nevertheless bundled over the line, by Coldicott. That is what Coldicott, at his best, gives to the side.