Mike Bacon: ‘We’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles.... Paul Mariner’
In his weekly column, Mike Bacon remembers Town striker Paul Mariner’s great input at Portman Road
It was Paul Mariner's birthday last week.
The Ipswich Town legend turned 66 on Wednesday. Where does the time go?
I always loved Mariner as a player.
He joined Town at a time when the club was on the rise.
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Bobby Robson was building one of the best teams in England on their way to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory.
Key players identified and bought, man management of the highest order and a youth policy that was one of the best around.
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Trusting young players, identifying quality, finding those 'hidden gems'... such as Mariner.
I was still at Primary School when the Bolton-born man signed in 1976 for the Blues and, during the next eight years, the 6ft tall striker was a hero of mine.
Only Frans Thijssen took over his mantle as my favourite Ipswich player after the Dutchman joined Town in 1979.
It was a tough decision to make.
But then I was a midfielder in my Northgate High School football team, Thijssen ticked a few more boxes for me in the way he played.
I could sort of identify with him, even if I had zero in common with him as a player.
But back to Mariner
Robson signed him for £220,000, with John Peddelty and Terry Austin moving in the opposite direction, as part of the deal.
Such was Mariner's impact that six months after joining Ipswich, he made his England debut.
He had everything.
Strong on the ball, never afraid to tackle. He could finish with his head, left foot, right foot.
People rightly talk about Alan Shearer being the best No.9 in recent decades.
Well back in the early 80s, Mariner was right up there.
He is a bubbly character as well.
Part of a close-knit Town squad in those days meant players had to get on. There was no squad list of about 145 that you see on the back of football programmes these days. Half the squad probably having never spoken to the other half!
My best memory of Mariner - apart from the Cup finals - was him scoring a header at the old Churchmans end against Liverpool - a powerful thunderbolt of a nod from about 16 yards out.
It was a brilliant finish.
I think it was in a 1-0 Town win. Ipswich and Liverpool were often head to head in the title-race in those days. Match of the Day that night was a dream.
"We'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles... Paul Mariner", the North Stand would boom out as Mariner and the Town players celebrated every time he banged a goal home.
I never saw Ted Phillips, Ray Crawford or Tom Garneys play - great Town strikers - so I will not compare.
Alan Brazil was cool and confident in front of goal, as was Marcus Stewart.
Darren Bent was strong and powerful, John Wark a midfielding goal machine, but for me Mariner had the lot - 35 England caps and 13 goals t'boot, as well as his 135 goals in 339 appearances for the Blues in all competitions.
I hope he enjoyed his birthday celebrations.
I raise a glass to him.
Because here in Ipswich, the memory of his footballing exploits for the Blues will never be forgotten.
I WAS NEVER part of the Mick In, Mick Out, brigade.
But I was disappointed to read this week Mick McCarthy take another pop at Ipswich Town Football Club.
Now Republic of Ireland manager and during a press conference in that role, he was asked for his thoughts on Premier League Brighton giving Chris Hughton, a former Republic international and assistant boss, the boot.
McCarthy replied: "Maybe they just thought it was time for a change. Same as me and Ipswich, they thought it was time for a change - (cue short pause) - that went well."
Come on Mick, it wasn't all bad at Portman Road.
You received a lot of good will during your time there from a lot of good people, including your own players, coaching staff, backroom staff, many fans and others who work for the club behind the scenes, during your tenure.
Many of whom are still there today.
So don't be disrespectful to them all, move on.