"An unbelievable moment"

Cod Almighty | Article

by Alan Buckley & Paul Thundercliffe

23 October 2013

In this excerpt from Pass and Move, Alan Buckley describes his close-season transfer activity in 1992, being alerted to the availability of Dave Beasant, and a match he ranks as one of the best of his managerial career...

I replaced Shaun Cunnington with a player I had admired for a while, in fact he had knocked us out of the FA Cup the year before, Paul Groves. He was an elegant midfielder, great engine and a range of passing but I felt he would score more goals than Shaun and so it proved.

We signed Paul after a tribunal on the same day as Rhys Wilmot, a goalkeeper from Arsenal. Rhys had a great pedigree and was a capable shot-stopper but he made a stuttering start and strained his back in training. I still had Steve Sherwood, by now pushing 40 who I turned to but he couldn't play every game. Chief scout Ronnie Mann was on very good terms with Eddie Niedzwiecki, the former Chelsea keeper then a coach at the west London club. He asked Eddie if he knew of any stoppers who might be of any interest to us. I weighed it up and figured we would be stupid to turn down the opportunity to have such a great goalkeeper

To Ronnie's amazement Eddie's suggestion was the England international Dave Beasant. Just four years previously he saved a penalty as Wimbledon won the FA Cup but some high-profile mistakes in the top League had worn the patience of his manager Ian Porterfield. I made the call and Dave was happy to get some game time on the condition that he didn't have to train with us. I weighed it up and figured we would be stupid to turn down the opportunity to have such a great goalkeeper play for little old Grimsby.

Dave's first game could not have been any harder. Newcastle had made a fantastic start to the season, winning the first 11 games. We were on a hiding to nothing but, to be fair, our football had been good so far. We had done very well against QPR in the League Cup, losing on penalties, a performance that led to Ray Wilkins, the manager, coming in and congratulating my players straight after the game.

Beasant came up on the Friday by train and by the time we were on the A1 he had already got a card school going. He oozed professionalism, was great with the players and they really warmed to him. Newcastle started well but we grew into the game and had our chances. Tommy Watson had a storming game, hitting the bar and pulling all of the strings; our passing was crisp and effective, our movement lively and penetrating.

Clive Mendonca turns past Steve HoweyClive Mendonca twists past Steve Howey as Alan Buckley shouts encouragement It certainly wasn't a backs-to-the-wall performance, we were deservedly level and maybe should have been ahead as the game entered its final moments. I was delighted with a point, it ended their great run and was further evidence of how established we were becoming at that level. Newcastle seemed to have settled for a point by this stage and I was content to play out time.

We had the ball on our left hand side with Clive who was almost languid in possession. He passed short to Gilbert who did likewise to Jim Dobbin. At this point I was screaming at Jim to play it back to Diddy so we could just keep the ball and see the game out but Jim had other ideas and lashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner to win us the game. It was an unbelievable strike, an unbelievable moment and an unbelievable win.

Jim Dobbin shoots and scoresNeil Woods and Clive Mendonca look on as Jim Dobbin shoots That game still ranks as one of the best of my managerial career. It didn't win us promotion or a cup tie but the fact that Newcastle were probably one of the best teams in the country at that point, on a fantastic run and managed by Kevin Keegan makes it a memorable and priceless victory. My time in football was all about conquering challenges, making the seemingly impossible happen and this was a very pertinent example.

After the game Keegan was his usual down-to-earth self when he came onto our team coach to congratulate my players on their deserved victory. It wasn't just the win, it was the manner of it – the style of it – that really made me happy. I had taken my talented but underrated team, including a goalkeeper deemed no good for the Premiership, and been more than match for illustrious opponents playing super football. It was what I was all about.

Jim DobbinI was delighted for the players, especially Jim who had struggled to impress the fans. His quote after the goal was brilliant: "I got the ball and could hear the gaffer screaming 'put it in the corner'. I thought he meant the top corner!"


Thanks to Grimsby Town FC for permission to reproduce the picture of Jim Dobbin's goal and the Grimsby Telegraph for permission to reproduce the shot of Clive Mendonca and the Town bench

Alan Buckley: Pass and Move – My Story by Alan Buckley and Paul Thundercliffe will be published by Troubador Publishing on 11 November; price £18.99 hardback (also available as an e-book). It is available now from alanbuckleybook.com and the Grimsby Town club shop.

Cod Almighty is very grateful to Alan, Paul and Troubador Publishing for permission to reproduce this excerpt.