Matt Tees: how much we have to thank him for

Cod Almighty | Article

by Gordon Wilson

5 November 2020

Many Town followers fortunate enough to have met Matt Tees in the flesh will tell of his modest and good humoured man who was generous with his time. Gordon remembers.

My first interaction with the great man was via a telephone interview with him for the Fishy and the Black and White Corner back in 2010. He was a joy to interview, vividly recalling landmark moments and more private reflections of his time with the Mariners. Unprompted, he was quick to credit the industry of Mike Hickman who shielded him from the unwelcome attentions of destructive defenders; and the great skill of Dave Boylen for crafting many of the opportunities from which his flood of goals came.

Most memorable for me was the mischievous way in which he remembered a penalty incident that many of us recall from a time when goalkeepers' movements were restricted and strikers could obstruct their progress. Many of us will remember Matt being "decked" by the Northampton keeper who struck him in the face with the ball in the Pontoon penalty area. Matt's own retelling of the tale was punctuated by chuckling laughter.

"Alan Starling was the goalkeeper. He was an old mate of mine. We'd played together at Luton. Goalkeepers weren't allowed to move much then so I was standing in front of him to restrict him. 'Do you want it then?' he said and held the ball up to my face and said, 'Have it then.' And I fell over. For a joke you know. Well, I was as surprised as anybody when the referee awarded a penalty. I was shocked. And then Bracey scored. It was a good penalty."

As we recited and sang it was moving to see him smiling, eyes closed, and laughing, as he relived the GTFC events in which he starred. And afterwards, his generous thanks and warm, firm shaking of hands. "How much more I have I to thank you for", I thought then.

We met again at McMenemy's at the the Dinner held to mark the 40th Anniversary of that heroic 1972 FA Cup campaign. I had written a poem about that and was invited to read it at the dinner. It was both thrilling and humbling to have him approach me afterwards to say how much he had enjoyed the performance and I felt privileged to be able to talk with him about the games and have him autograph one of the stanzas dedicated to him.

We next met at the Sporting Memories group he attended at Waltham Library a few years ago at a celebration of the completion of the group's first year. I was performing with Next of the Summer Wine in a football-focussed set of songs and poems As we recited and sang it was moving to see him smiling, eyes closed, and laughing, as he relived the GTFC events in which he starred. And afterwards, again, his generous thanks and warm, firm shaking of hands. "How much more I have I to thank you for", I thought then.

The last time I saw Matt, perhaps two years ago, he was crossing the entrance to the St Peter's Avenue car park in Cleethorpes. He had just been enjoying footballing stories with a grateful admirer, I suspect, and was trying to catch up with Mrs Tees. I was transported to the past as I watched him shuffle along with that stuttering, almost tripping, movement we remember across the years. How often we saw that movement, in penalty areas across the land; Matt timing the run then leaping, hanging in the air, before meeting crosses from Lewis, Boylen and Brace, Pennington, Collins and Hill.

That was his trademark manoeuvre, the one that sparked our anticipation of glanced or powerfully headed goals that would swell the nets and fill our dreams for years to come.

Matt Tees. Blundell Park titan, prince of the goalmouth, gentle man. RIP

Part of this article first appeared in the Mariner matchday programme.

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