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Talking To Chris Kirk
Talking To Chris Kirk

Exclusive Interview: John Cockerill (Part Two)

By: Chris Kirk
Date: 02/01/2008

THE second part of Chris Kirk's exclusive chat with arguably one of the greatest footballers Grimsby has produced. This interview first appeared in BAWC Issue Nine.

Home > Features > Interviews > John Cockerill

How did it come about, you taking the role of caretaker manager?

I had also been the club's School of Excellence manager at that time. I had just taken a training session for that and I went to the reserve game. I was sat in the box when the late Bill Carr came in and had a little chat. He said 'John, we have a little problem. Alan, Arthur and Richard are all leaving for West Brom tomorrow.' I was obviously shocked, but said I would look after the football side of things if he looked after the rest of business.

I think we were fourth from bottom when I took over, but in the seven games I was in charge, we won five, lost one and drew one, and I think we were fourth from top by the time Brian Laws was appointed. It was a really good spell and the lads did very well.

Did you not want the job permanently first time around?

That first time, they never offered me the job. However, I had always fancied the job full-time. When they appointed Brian Laws, I thought considering it was his first job, they could have offered me instead. But they decided to offer it to him, and it was just one of those things. I was offered the youth team job and I was happy to take that.

That was quite a fruitful spell for the youth team, with many of those lads going on to play in the first team. Did you enjoy working with the youngsters?

Yes, it was very rewarding. Of the lads I worked with, John Oster, Danny Butterfield, Matt Bloomer, Daryl Clare, Steve Croudson, Ben Chapman and Paul Harsley all went on to play in the first team. Obviously John Oster played at the highest level, but I quite liked Paul Harsley but he never got a break with Town. But of all of them, he's probably gone on to play 300-odd first team games for other clubs like Scunthorpe, Macclesfield and Port Vale.

Why did you not take on the job following Brian Laws' sacking?

I thought they would ask Kenny Swain to do it, but for some strange reason they asked me to do it again. Paul Groves had gone to West Brom so we were weak in the middle of the park, and we had lost a few other players. I said I would take the job providing they could give me some money to spend on the players we needed. They said they couldn't do that, so I said no to the job, which was disappointing. It was not a lot I was asking for, and I thought it was an amount the club could afford if it wanted to stay in that league. I went back to the youth team and Kenny Swain took it on because he thought the players we had were good enough, but he was wrong because we were relegated. We really lacked strength in the middle of the park.

How did you get the assistant manager's job under Alan Buckley?

I was on a coaching course, and when I got back, Alan called me. I had not heard anything but he said he had got the Town job, and could he meet with me? I went to meet him and he offered me the assistant manager's job. He said the late Arthur Mann wasn't coming back with him, and he assured me that he definitely wouldn't be turning up a few months down the line to get his job.

What influence did you have on the big-money sales of Clive Mendonca and John Oster?

Before Alan got the job, Charlton had made it clear they wanted Clive, but the club kept turning them down because he could have helped us to stay up. He went as soon as the season ended, before Alan even came back. Then, we got a really good offer for John Oster from Everton, and Alan decided to sell him. I could understand it in a way because then he had a bit of money to play with so he could bring in those players like Paul Groves, Kev Donovan and Lee Nogan, as well as a few others. I could see we needed to do this in the previous season but was told the money wasn't there.

We had a great season. The previous managers all had their own ideas and ways of playing but having played in Alan's teams before, and having run the youth team in the same way, I knew what to expect.

It was good to see them playing football again, and good football as well. The players we brought in were of very good quality compared to most teams in that league. I remember we didn't score loads of goals that year, but Aidan Davison was brilliant in goal that season. I think we kept a record number of clean sheets that year, and quite often we'd go away and nick a 1-0 win.

Part Three Tomorrow

This interview first appeared in BAWC issue nine…for more information on the only current Mariners paper based fanzine email

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