Cod Almighty | Diary
Is there any reason why I cannot award Jack Lester a starting place?
30 June 2017
Middle-Aged Diary said I'd be back again today, but you have largely written this diary for me. It is devoted to the Grimsby Town Wembley XI.
First, we heard from Richard Lord.
Aware that Toto has already claimed a central defensive place in the esteemed Wembley XI, it's a shame that I can't suggest a dual nomination in Mark Lever and Peter Handyside for their impeccable performances – as individuals and as a pair – against Northampton in 1998.
We all know about the amount of clean sheets we kept that season, and the amount of games some of our squad (naming no Groves) had to play. And while neither Lever nor Handyside played every minute of every game in 1997-98, they still played a huge amount of matches and contributed massively to our success.
The fact that both still found the energy and mental toughness to put in classic central defensive displays at the very end of a long bugger of a season, when it mattered most, with their not-so-brilliant injury records, against a side who gave us a particularly physical game and an aerial bombardment, shouldn't be underestimated.
And let's not forget – Fulham tried to crock Lever in the first leg of the play-offs, then they tried to crock Handyside in the second. They both recovered, got on with things, and led us to glory.
So, if you had to pick... Well, it's a toughie. Lever won the man of the match award on the day, so maybe that gives him the edge. But unless I've misremembered, the man who made that call – Sky Sports' Alan Brazil – said he couldn't choose between them, and only went for Lever to avoid any suggestion of bias towards a fellow Scot.
So maybe, to redress that imbalance created by Brazil, we should just include Handyside?
Neville Butt comes to the same conclusion: No argument here. Peter Handyside had a wonderful game against Northampton and any threat down the middle was nullified by Handyside and his defensive partner Mark Lever. However Handyside was brilliant in the air, his covering of colleagues when required showed his positional sense to good advantage, but it was his ability to run with the ball out of defence, especially in the second half, that repeatedly put Town on the attack, helped by his accurate distribution. Yes, he deserved to be likened to Beckenbauer that afternoon.
The only danger is that this team might come to be dominated by the side that beat Northampton. Yesterday, we polled you to see whether James McKeown shouldn't keep goal. There were several honourable mentions for Phil Barnes in our 2008 Wembley appearance as well, but by 57 per cent to 43, you have confirmed the original selection of Aidan Davison.
Who provided the best goalkeeping performance for the #gtfc Wembley XI?— Cod Almighty (@codalmighty) June 29, 2017
Neville confirms the thinking: I would make Aidan Davison my first choice. Firstly the save only two minutes before the golden goal at Wembley was in the Gordon Banks category as he flipped up a deflection from a low inswinging free kick from the left – a free kick delivered with the same venom as that of Staunton at Villa when we defeated Villa in the League Cup. Of equal, if not greater value, was the way Aidan caught the free kicks launched into the Town goalmouth for Gale to show his heading prowess, but he was thwarted by Davison, as Grimsby slowly took control of the game by squeezing the life out of Northampton’s route one to goal.
Admittedly, Neville is muddying the waters there by introducing Davison's performance against Bournemouth – remember it is an individual performance we are judging, not a player. That means it is open to us to pick Wayne Burnett (v Northampton) to partner Burnett (v Bournemouth). And it is quite tempting to pick Dave Smith at both left back and left wing, asking him also to sell a few commercial packages and do a charity bike ride at half time.
It is also hard to look past Jack Lester from the Northampton game to partner Omar Bogle. Lester I regard as a guilty pleasure. I liked that he scored goals, I liked that he was nippy and I liked that he played as though he enjoyed himself. In two ways, he was a pioneer. Before social media was really a thing, making the gesture common, he took the trouble to go online to say goodbye when he left for Forest. And the frequency with which he would seek contact with the trailing leg of an opponent to engineer a penalty would perhaps go unremarked nowadays but would have had me screaming "cheat" had he been playing against us in 1998.
Against Northampton, it must be said he was magnificent. Having missed the Bournemouth game through suspension, he was hell-bent on making the most of the occasion. First he helped shepherd Burnett's ball on its way for Donovan's goal. Then the match opened up in just the way he liked, Northampton forced to push forward, leaving them vulnerable to his mobile peskiness. I won't ink in Lester though, until you have had a chance to remind us of any rivals for the second striker's spot.
We have given no thought to the Wembley touchline. But two places fill themselves. Of course we must have Alan Buckley for his "We've scored. And we've won" double-take for Burnett's golden goal. And for a balanced bench, we must have Dave Moore's laconic shrug as everyone else cavorted at Nathan Arnold's goal. Bet he enjoys pre-season training more.
The Grimsby Town Wembley XI (so far)
Goalkeeper: Aidan Davison (v Northampton, 1998)
Right back: John McDermott (v Bournemouth, 1998)
Central defender: Aristote Nsiala (v Bristol Rovers, 2015)
Central defender: Peter Handyside (v Northampton, 1998)
Central midfield: Wayne Burnett (v Bournemouth, 1998)
Right wing: Kevin Donovan (v Northampton, 1998)
Striker: Omar Bogle (v Forest Gereen, 2016)