Player profile: Paul Groves

Cod Almighty | Article

by Alistair Wilkinson

8 September 2003

"1966 was a good year for English football." So said the billboard advertising of some sportswear company or other several years ago. It had the face of Eric "Did you call my pint a poof?" Cantona looming viciously at innocent passers-by. That was the year the crazed genius was born. On seeing this talisman for exploited sweatshop workers from around the world I often had the urge for a can of spray paint and a ladder, for this landmark year saw the birth of another iconic footballer. He is of course the ever-dependable 'ultimate pro' Mr Paul Groves.

A great year for Grimsby football would have to be 2001. On 28 December Lennie Lawrence was sent to his own land of milk and honey that is Wales, which meant that football could return to our much-maligned little town. Who would be made responsible for reminding the players that God put grass there for a reason? It was and is Captain Fantastic, Mr Grimsby...take a bow, player/manager Paul Groves.

Before I go on I will admit a little bias in this player profile. For a long time now I have looked at life through spectacles bedecked with Groves-coloured lenses. He has been a hero of mine since I was a wee thing, or at least an impressionable drunk in his late teens and early twenties.

Way back when I visited Blundell Park with a different football chum, we each had our own man. Mine was "my man Paul Groves", his "my man Gary Childs". We had a little unofficial points system for our men to compete on; this was forgotten and changed every week due to brains melting in lager and Blundell Park pies, and the current total was always a mystery come 16:50, but "my man Groves" was invariably the winner. I would have it no other way. Basically the man can do no wrong in my eyes, or at least not much, and so this is not an objective profile, but then which ones are?

Grovesie is now well into the winter of his playing career (but not my discontent), and giving himself the squad number 22 for this season would suggest he is ready to concentrate on the management side of his now split personality. However he is still a player, and given Town's insistence on modelling the midfield in a Tottenham Hotspur stylee - sign 'em up and they drop like flies - the helmsman has so far this season had to hand over the rudder to Rodger and grab an oar himself more often than not.

This is no bad thing. Although no longer the box-to-box, combative, free-scoring, solid midfielder with an engine that made the Titanic look like a floating Reliant Robin, he can certainly still do a job for our beloved Mariners either in the middle or at the back.

Now Groves has recently come in for a bit of hassle from the Main Stand boo-boys (please stop, I don't like it). Why? OK, so his management has started shakily - even I admit a few errors - and his playing career is ending with a few jitters, but the man does not deserve this derision. He now has the third highest total of appearances for the club, close to 450 and still going; and it is only recently that you've had to take your shoes and socks off to count bad performances, and I'd argue against most of those anyway.

For now, quit your whining. The guy's still learning and is still a player, and as cover I really don't think we could get much better. You can always ask but I don't think you would receive.