|The Best PM in My Life|
Written by essexccc on Saturday, 10th Jul 2021 18:08
Being born in 1957, I think I have lived through the leadership of 12 Prime Ministers. I don't know which of them I regard as the best, although I regard the current one, the amoral, lying and self-seeking one, as without doubt, the worst.
Sorry for that corny introduction. But the best PM in my life has undoubtedly been Paul Mariner - an Ipswich legend as this website has widely acknowledged today upon Paul's tragically early passing.
I have no similar experience of knowing Paul Mariner, as Mel Henderson, did, but would like to express my appreciation of his career in blog form.
My first knowledge of Paul Mariner was in the autumn term of my second year at Nottingham University. In the days well before this excellent website and the Internet were available and without access to the East Anglian, my main way of keeping up to date with transfer news was to read the national tabloids in Cripps Hall common room.
It was a good time to be at university for an Ipswich fan. There was a kind of curiosity from footballing mates, from around the country, about this 'little team', who, for the last few years, had shown remarkable consistency in the top division, often beating the big clubs, home away, and forging a reputation in Europe.
We already had a good team but we really needed a centre forward to play up front with Trevor Whymark, and the tabloids reported, West Ham, West Brom and Ipswich as being interested in Plymouth's prolific striker.
Most papers loved to add that he started out as a mechanic in Chorley. Even then, we weren't known for spending big and I was very worried that this marquee signing would be made by one of the 'Wests'.
The transfer saga seemed to go on for ever but we all know that Paul Mariner eventually signed for us for just over £200,000. That was a further statement that Ipswich had arrived in fighting off opposition the other interested parties.
Watching our new centre forward was eagerly anticipated. I didn't see his debut but did travel from Nottingham to Ipswich for his home debut - the great 7-0 thrashing of West Brom. Ironic as he might have been playing for them!
He developed an immediate understanding with Whymark and while Trevor's four goals on the day may have put Paul's own superb strike temporarily in the shade, it signalled a fantastic spell at the club for our new centre forward.
The trip back to Nottingham was full of anticipation. We could hold our heads even higher among students who supported the 'big' clubs.
As has been widely said in tributes, Paul Mariner had everything a centre forward needed. He was good in the air, held the ball up well with great control, he was strong, could use both feet and while not the quickest, was certainly faster than Harry Kane.
He was a great entertainer. You could tell that he loved performing on the pitch and always seemed positive. Paul Cook would die for a player with his attitude today, not to mention his immense talent.
There were so many highlights over the next eight years or so, domestically and in Europe, and Paul was undoubtedly the best striker I ever saw in an Ipswich shirt. He was 23 when we signed him and had he played in the First Division earlier in his career, he would undoubtedly have gained more than his 30-odd England caps.
Paul's display in the FA Cup final in 1978, for me, was one highlight that has to be mentioned. The whole team of course were brilliant in the most one-sided one-nil that many of us have seen. But Paul had added pressure being the inspiration for that great banner 'Featherlite Mariner slips round Big Willie'. He didn't disappoint and duly slipped round and away from Willie Young and indeed David O'Leary, many times on that historic day.
I also have to mention the hat-trick in the 6-0 humiliation of Manchester United, which I was so happy to have witnessed. Another statement performance to the footballing world. He was such a big part of the best period in our history. It seems unreal that such a big person and personality is no longer with us.
I did have one personal experience of Paul Mariner, when taking my nephew to his first trip to Portman Road in 1983. We paid for a club tour of the ground before the game and happened to look in on the home changing room.
My then fiancee, and now wife, was with us. Who should be at the open door but Paul Mariner, clothed in just a jock strap. Far from being angry, or even surprised, he just said, in his broad Chorley accent "alright love?" to my wife-to-be. Difficult to see that happening nowadays but it summed up his common touch.
Like the rest of the home crowd, I was pleased to clap Paul loudly and from the heart when he relatively recently visited as manager of Plymouth. With hindsight I'm so grateful to have had that opportunity to support such a terrific Ipswich player who embodied everything the club achieved at the peak of his power, a power that he played a huge part in creating.
Thanks for the memories Paul. May you rest in peace and thoughts and prayers with your family.
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