Sunday, 30 November 2014


IT’S many happy returns of December 11 for former goalkeeper and manager Charlie Wright who will be 76 on that date.

Although he was never really given a chance at his first club, Glasgow Rangers, Wright excelled while was a player with Workington, Grimsby, Charlton and Bolton.

Although born and brought up in  Paisley, near Glasgow, he also made an appearance for Hong Kong.

After hanging up his gloves and boots, he managed York City, then Bolton Wanderers.

The article below first appeared in the Cleethorpes Chronicle in November, 2008.

CHARLIE Wright, a goalkeeping hero for the Mariners in the early ' sixties, can still vividly remember his first match as Grimsby Town goalkeeper.

It was an away match on February 16, 1963, at runaway Second Division leaders Middlesbrough

It was one of the iciest winters on record, and the Town team stayed overnight at a hotel off the A1 road  at Scotch Corner.

Although the morning was bitterly cold, the pitch was just capable of taking a stud so the ref decided the match could go ahead.

Then, ten minutes before kick-off, the temperature plummeted to below freezing. The ground became so hard you could hear the clattering of the players' studs on the glazed and rock-hard surface.

Because the crowd had already flocked into the ground, the match went ahead, but, according to Charlie, it was "a farce, with players of both sides sliding all over the place."

The play was almost entirely one-way, with the Mariners' goal under almost non-stop bombardment. But the debutant played out of his skin and kept a clean sheet.

By scoring with a rare attack on the break, relegation-threatened Town registered a 1-0 win - the surprise result of the day and the start of a winning sequence which saw them surge up the table.

 Over this and almost 150 more matches for the Mariners, Charlie's agility, reliability and enthusiasm earned him a well-deserved place in Blundell Park folklore.  

He protected his goal with an almost ferocious determination which gave confidence to the rest of the defence and inspired the whole team.

Charlie, who lived in Brereton Avenue, Cleethorpes, with wife Helen, was not always a goalkeeper - as a schoolboy growing up in Paisley he played in every position, most often as a left winger.

"I had a good left peg and was a fair crosser of the ball."he recalls.

However, playing first for Boys Brigade sides, then for the YMCA, it emerged that he had a special talent between the sticks - he was strong, courageous, had quick reflexes and could catch or deflect the ball from whatever angle, height or speed it came at his goal.

Oddly, despite going on to play for a couple of trophy-winning club sides - New Hill Amateurs and Glentyan Thistle - Charlie's enthusiasm for football was probably outmatched  in his early teenage years by an even greater  passion for competitive road cycling.

After school, he took a job as an apprentice motor mechanic, but evenings and weekends saw him out on his bike, thinking nothing of riding 100 miles - sometimes further - on a single day.
He even toyed with the idea of moving to the Continent where some of his pals were already seeking a living - albeit not a great one - in the saddle.

But the brakes were slammed on any aspirations to a career on the roads of France  when, out of the blue, the 16-year-old was asked to play in goal for Scottish Second Division side  Greenock Morton in a fixture  with promotion-chasing Queen's Park at Hampden Park, the home of Scottish football.

"I couldn't believe it when my Dad told me of their approach,"recalls Charlie. "I thought it must be a mistake. It was the most exciting moment of my life."

"I never slept a wink the night before the match. Then nerves set in - I must have spent most of the next morning on the toilet."

In the match itself, Charlie did himself proud, making numerous breathtaking blocks and almost saving a penalty - he dived and pushed the ball against a post but it rebounded off his shoulder into the net.

Just on the strength of that performance - and the subsequent Press reports - several big clubs from both signs of the border came calling, but his signature was secured by Glasgow Rangers who saw his potential and reckoned they could groom the youngster for first-team stardom.

Alas, Charlie's spell at Ibrox lasted just two years, ending when, despite having been told he was making progress, he was released.

"I was devastated by the news,"he says. "It was a hell of a shock. It almost blew my brains out."

Little did he know it at the time, but the close of the short chapter in his Scottish career was the prelude to many more both in England and overseas.

An enjoyable spell at Workington, managed by former Newcastle wing-half Joe Harvey (whom he credits with greatly improving his goalkeeping skills), was punctuated by National Service with the Border Regiment which took him first to Berlin, then to Hong Kong.

Away from infantry duties and bren gun training, he played in Army sides and was even selected to play for the Hong Kong national side for whom he made a scintillating penalty save in a match against Peru.

The save became such a big talking point with the Chinese fans that it even earned Charlie the accolade of Player of the Year.

He returned to Workington but joined the Mariners after failing to hit it off with manager Ken Furphy who succeeded Harvey at the helm of the Cumbrian club

There was friction between the two men - possibly dating back to the times they had clashed in goalmouth action at a time when Furphy had been an uncompromising centre forward for Darlington.

Perhaps the new boss was also irritated by the Workington fans' practice of singing "Charlie is My Darling" every time he kept a clean sheet.

Despite the big winter freeze that welcomed him in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, Charlie - and wife Helen whom he had married when he was 20 - loved the three years spent on this part of the East Coast.

"The people are lovely,"he says. "They are the salt of the earth - or should I say the salt of the sea?

They would gladly give you their last cup of tea."

Charlie was later transferred to Charlton Athletic, then managed by Bob Stokoe, for whom he played for five years before ending his playing days at Bolton Wanderers.

Goalkeepers are probably more vulnerable to serious injury than any other players on the park. Over his career, Charlie bounced back from cracked ribs, numerous breaks to his nose, concussion and a fractured jaw.

In fact, it was while recovering  in a Midlands hospital  after being knocked unconscious in a match at Walsall that he first learned from a nurse that "a London club" - Charlton - had made an approach to sign him.

But on the injury front, it was the battering taken by his spine that finally took their toll.

On medical advice, he was given no choice but to hang up his gloves. "My back was knackered, "he said."The doctor told me that, if I had been a horse, they would have shot

"I was 37 at the time. It was a big disappointment. I was as enthusiastic as ever - and, with my experience, I could read the game two moves ahead.

"I would have liked to have played on till I was at least 40."

Charlie was not lost to football, however, because he went on to take up a coaching role, followed by management posts with York City, Bolton and, for a single season, a club in northern Norway.

Thereafter, he returned to Greenwich in South-east London, near Charlton's ground, where he ran a successful cafe - Charlie's Place - for the best part of 15 years.

"It was hard work but rewarding," he says. "From one day to the next, you never knew who might walk in through the door. Our customers ranged from tramps and drug addicts to business people and film stars."

Now enjoying retirement, Charlie and Helen live in Deal on the Kent Coast

 They have a son, Steven, who is a TV executive, two daughters, Sandra and Gail, plus five grandchildren.

Despite his back giving him gip, Charlie stays active and likes to get out on the golf course as often as he can. "I like to be in the fresh air," he says.

And there is still a much-cherished Cleethorpes connection - Charlie's sister, May, is married to Matt Tees, another Mariners and Charlton  star of yesteryear.

From time to time, Charlie and Helen return to the Lincolnshire resort - and it is always time well spent.

"It's great to come back,"ends Charlie. "We drive around and see the old haunts. It reminds us of many very happy times.

“We certainly enjoyed being in Cleethorpes."

To read Charlton fans' memories of "Sir Charlie" (and see  TV footage of him playing alongside fellow-Scot Matt Tees), see:

After his career in football ended, Charlie successfully ran a cafe for many years


 THE launch of a new wood on the outskirts of Grimsby was snubbed by local councillors.

Neither Coun Ray Sutton nor Coun Cliff Barber attended yesterday’s planting event  at a former 1950s landfill site almost  opposite St Michael’s Church in Great Coates.

It is understood the duo were miffed not to have been included in the decision-making loop.

They also favoured a municipal-style children’s play area with conventional slides and swings. However, this was deemed inappropriate in a semi-rural location

Once the trees have become established, there will be a play area. but it will be in keeping with the surrounding environment.

The project is  the brainchild of the John Harrison Foundation and the Woodland Trust, with assistance from other organisations such as the Rotary club and North East Lincolnshire Council.

In all, some 3,000 trees have been planted.

Funding arrangements on the planting costs are still being finalised

As often at Grimsby-area community events, cadets were very much to the fore.

I think that's just about straight - may it have a long and happy life!

It's all  hands to the turf 

The hope is that some, if not all, of the saplings will eventually reach the same height as the long-established tree in the background

Sunday, 23 November 2014


A NEW community woodland is to be planted on the edge of Grimsby.

To be located on the banks of the River Freshney in Great Coates, it  is the brainchild of  the John Harrison Foundation with support from  the Woodland Trust and North East Lincolnshire Council.

The  Longitude Wood will help commemorate 300 years since John Harrison - a Grimsby-area man - made discoveries about longitude and latitude that proved  crucial in the development of maritime trade and exploration.

It is understood the project is proceeding despite objections from some residents - including two ward councillors, Cliff Barber and Ray Sutton, who are thought to have favoured a skate park. 

The duo may boycott the official lauch, and the latter is understood  to have called for an internal inquiry into how and why the go-ahead was given.

However, Christina McGilligan-Fell, director of JHF and also a councillor has sounded an enthusiastic note. “This planting event is a wonderful opportunity to get children involved in the project from the very beginning, and we hope local schools will benefit from learning through their local landscape,” she says.

Her comment is endorsed by John Tucker, of the Woodland Trust, who stresses the importance of involving children because it encourages an appreciation of environmental values as they grow up."

NELC  has designated an area of land for the planting, provided funding, and has agreed to maintain the woods. 

Support has also been forthcoming from Associated British Ports (who have also contributed to funding), local Rotarians and Grimsby in Bloom.

Future plans include picnic benches, sculptures and possibly a children’s play area.

In due course, Whitgift School pupils will plant bluebells, cowslips and other wildflowers.

It is hoped that there will be a big turnout of volunteers to help with the planting from 10am on Saturday November 29.

Friday, 21 November 2014


An important habitat where birds such as wigeon, redshank, jack snipe, twite and Lapland buntings are vulnerable to disturbance by dogs

DOG  is man's best friend!

Mostly, of course, they provide joyous and affectionate  companionship to their owners, both children and adults,  including the elderly who might otherwise be extremely lonely,

They are also precious for 101 other resaons - in industry, sport, medical  therapy (especially for the blind and for those with neurological conditions) and much else.

True, there are occasional cases when individual animals cause injury or even death to humans and livestock, but such incidents, invariably headline-making, are relatively few and far between.

But are there  now too many dogs in North East Lincolnshire?

Judging by the increasing numbers seen in public parks and on Cleethorpes beach, the population has exploded over the past 15-20 years.

Especially for birders, this has caused a problem. Dogs are definitely  not birders' best friend. They generate disturbance.

Most birders will have many a tale to tell of  ground-dwelling feeders and breeders being flushed by  canines.

If a local authority creates a new wildlife reserve or "country park", sure as sure, it will soon be annexed as a favoured habitat for dog walkers.

Many of the birds will fly to pastures new. It would have been better if the "reserve" had never been created in the first place.

Among examples in Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, is the resort's so-called  "country park" where one edge of the lake  which used to attract ringed plovers and common sandpipers has now been given a unique special status as . . .  "a dog swimming area".

What can be done about it? Probably nothing - except perhaps reintroduction of the old dog licence fee.

But this won't happen. It would be expensive to administer and politically unpopular.

And the  plain fact is that dogs give immense enjoyment  to  their owners - and there are far more of them than there are birders.

The extent of their devotion was underlined by the comment of one greyhound owner. "A house without dogs is worse than a house without windows."

Most dog owners are  good, kindly  people who  like to share the pleasure of their pets with others. But there a  few who are the opposite. They are  intolerant of anyone or anything that challenges the "rights" of them and their animals.

When an elderly  parish councillor in Ingoldmells, near Skegness, complained about the extent of fouling on the streets of his village, his comments were reported in a local newspaper, and faeces were soon being  shovelled through the letter box on to his doormat. Understandably, he and his wife were mortified.

During this month, the debate  about dogs has been reopened with a vengeance on the bulletin board of the Lincolnshire Bird Club  - specifically in relation to the RSPB's Tetney Marsh reserve, south of Cleethorpes, where dogs frequently run loose.

One contributo wrote: " The dog walkers are a permanent  pain who seem to think it is their right  totally to ignore the signs for dogs to be kept under close control and not clear up after them.

"The voluntary  wardens do a grand job within the budget constraints put upon them, and they deserve our wholehearted support.

"I personally  have been verbally abused many times after making a simple request about whether  they had  noticed the signs about dogs.

"Some throw balls into the marsh for their animals to retrieve.

"For them, it is great fun - the dogs really enjoy it.

"One woman even told me the ducks were  enjoying themselves, too,  dodging her  spaniel as if it was also good fun for the wildfowl.

"What an idiot!"

Here are  the comments of an RSPB spokesman who oversees the fortunes of the Tetney reserve: "In regards the usage of the site with people with dogs, we have tried many approaches to try and solve this.

"We have approached the Press before and had bits published, but we have also been on the receiving end of Press articles instigated by dog walkers that have claimed that the RSPB is stopping public access to an area that is there right to access and is a public footpath.

"Although the land is private and there is actually no public access,  the Press, as usual, covered it in an unsympathetic way, giving the impression that people could go where they wanted with dogs rather than actually that  they were trespassing.

"They even had a quote from a member of another conservation body who owned a dog who thought that we were out of line.

"Unfortunately the dog lobby is very strong and vocal, and, at times, the odd individual  can be very aggressive."

The spokesman continues: "Ideally we should like to solve the dog walking problem sensibly, and this is being tackled via the relevant authorities who have undertaken a disturbance study and are formulating recommendation of how to manage problems of disturbance.

"This may include introducing car park charges to some car parks or creating specific areas for dog walking with free car parking. There will be other approaches like the recently created Humber Hounds that are promoting responsible dog ownership along the estuary,  and I feel that this is very positive.

"Ideally we should be trying to educate the majority of dog owners and work with them, trying not to alienate them against the conservation cause, but this will take time."

Wise words, indeed,   but more ideas are needed.

If anyone can suggest a solution, please write to your local MP.

Invariably ignored by dog walkers - one of the signs at the approach to the reserve

Monday, 17 November 2014


THE Register of MPs’ financial interest has been updated as of November 14.

Locally, Austin Mitchell (Labour, Great Grimsby) continues to draw payments for his journalistic work as an associate editor on The House magazine which circulates among MPs and others in the Westminster village.

He has registered that he received £10,000 in January and another £5,000 more recently.

Martin Vickers (Con, Cleethorpes) received two fees of £75 each, for completing two surveys - each took about 20 minutes -  for an organisation called ComRes.

He donated the monies to local community charities.

On behalf of the constituency association, he also received political donation from the following individuals: John Cotton (£2,500), Jeremy Hosking (£2,500) and Gillian Ross (£5,000).

In nearby constituencies, Sir Edward Leigh (Con, Gainsborough) receives £6,250 a month in his capacity as a non-executive director of the Europe Arab Bank plus unspecified amounts in his work as barrister.

He also went on an all-expenses paid visit (worth £1,035) to Gibraltar between September 8-11 as a guest of the Gibraltar government to attend their National Day celebrations.

The Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell (Con, Louth and Horncastle) has registered that he receives £30,000 per annum for working approximately 10 hours a month for the Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation (Japan).

Further up the political pecking order, David Cameron (Witney) reveals that he has accepted honorary membership for life of the Carlton Club.

Whether or not the Prime Minister plays the game, he has also accepted honorary membership of Ellesborough Golf Club.

He also received two lamps, worth a total of £749, from a firm in his constituency.

Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam) received donations of sums of up to £5,000 from numerous individuals plus one of £10,000 from Henley Homes plc

Labour leader Ed Milliband (Doncaster North) has registered a £51,141 donation from Lord Alan Sugar (yes, he of The Apprentice fame) towards staffing costs, plus, from British Airways, flight costs (for himself and his wife) in  respect of a return flight to Johannesburg. 

He also accepted a Harrods Christmas hamper (worth £2,000) from the Sultan of Brunei. 

He donated it to an unnamed charity.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014


GRIMSBY MP Austin Mitchell has described his parliamentary career as “a long drawn-out failure”.

He attributes this to having been 44 when he was elected - “rather too old to be a rising meteor”.

What is more the onset of his parliamentary career coincided with 18 years of opposition, scuppering any chance of a governmental position.

Nor was there much chance of progress in opposition because the path to promotion was blocked by the likes of such "Labour greats" as Denis Healey, Roy Hattersley, Peter Shore, Barbara Castle and John Smith.

The MP, who has represented  the constituency since 1979, has written a book, Calendar Boy, which is about his colourful times as a presenter both on the regional TV news programme, Calendar, and its sister politic show Calendar Sunday.

But he switched from TV to politics after becoming “infatuated” by the latter.

He writes: “Politics is a minority sport with interest less than gardening or angling and certainly less than sport.

“But it is addictive and I became hooked. I discovered I wanted to play the game rather than just arrange the bouts and do the commentary.”

After the glamour of TV, life as an MP proved to be a different world - one often characterised, according to the MP, by “pushiness, plotting, sycophancy and self-promotion”.
He continues: "MPs are the dogsbodies and sewer cleaners of the constitution unless they are privately wealthy like Michael Heseltine.

“Parliamentary activity all too often consists of hanging around in the tea rooms gossiping, grumbling, sleeping and waiting for something to happen.

“Nothing is more destructive to good looks and mental balance than all-sight sittings.”

Never once in four decades was Mitchell offered a front-bench position. “I am not complaining though it would have nice to have been asked and offered a job - even as a lowly opposition spokesman.”he says.

But there has been a plus side which the MP, who will step down at next year’s General Election, describes as “serving the best constituency in the country, one of the few real communities left”.

He adds: “At the end of the day, you can help people, you can make minor changes to policy and you can plants seeds of thought which may grow,

“I am glad I jumped out of the TV studio and on to the Grimsby train.”


Much of the earlier content of the  book is industry related - about the development of Yorkshire TV and the colleagues, mostly men including Jonathan Aitken, Richard Whiteley and Alan Hardwick with whom he worked on Calendar.

Surprisingly, he has little  - and sometimes nothing - to say about his many interviews with celebrities.

For instance, there is a photograph of Roy Orbison but not a single word about the meeting or about the singer was like as a studio guest

He cites John Lennon and Yoko Ono, following the break-up of The Beatles, as “the most interesting" of his interviewees. They talked "fascinatingly and frankly about anything I asked”.

Yet Mitchell reveals nothing about the duo and their replies, and the tape has apparently been lost.

“Par for the course with The Beatles,”he says. “Granada wiped their first ever TV interview in an economy drive to re-use video tape.”

Mitchell describes another interviewee, the singer Joan Baez, as “a wonderful, serene, lovely lady, possibly an angel”, but he had difficulties in his meetings  with Spike Milligan, Frankie Howerd and Anita Harris.

Of the cricketer Fred Trueman, he says: “Once he realised he could not swear on air, Fred could always be relied on to entertain. “

Although Mitchell has next to no knowledge of football, he was asked to “referee” the famous studio confrontation between two top managers, Brian Clough and Don Revie.

“Contrary to rumour neither had been tricked into appearing,”he says. “Each received the same payment - £400 in cash.

“The interview was dead easy for me. Each disliked the other so much that there was no need for the interviewer to intervene at all.

“I just sat there and watched the argument unfurl – which it did brilliantly.

“I was fascinated by the interaction between the two great managers, though very much on Clough’s side as the more human of the two.”

* Calendar Boy (published at £19.99 by Pen & Sword Books) is available now from booksellers and online retailers.