Thursday, 3 February 2011
275 Tony Ford
Position : Winger
Played : 1999-2000 to 2001-02
Appearances : 89
Goals : 6
Tony came along with Steve Parkin as his assistant but wanted to continue playing despite being in his forties as he was set for 1,000 competitive games since his League debut for Grimsby in 1975. Tony was a key man in their rise from the Fourth Division in 1979 to become a respected Second Division outfit in the 80s although a crucial lack of pace stopped him from reaching the highest level of the game. After over a decade at Blundell Park playing 355 games and scoring 54 goals he fell out of love with the club in 1986 and joined Sunderland on loan. He played 9 games for them before joining Stoke for £35.000 in May. There he played alondgside a youngster called Steve Parkin. Tony's form at Stoke earned him a couple of England B caps and a valuation of £135,000 when he moved to West Brom in March 1989 (Parkin followed him a few months later for £190,000) .After 114 appearances and 14 goals he returned to Grimsby, then managed by Alan Buckley, for £50,000 in November 1991. His second spell there was less successful ; he scored 3 goals in 68 appearances and ended up on loan to Bradford in 1994. Released in the summer he joined Scunthorpe and played another 76 games scoring a very creditable 9 goals despite playing mainly at right back.When they released him in May 1996 he was 37 and with his League career seemingly over he signed for Barrow but soon received a call from the newly-appointed Parkin at Mansfield and became player-coach. He racked up another 104 appearances before joining us.
The fans' response to Tony's presence in the side baffled me; where was the usual kneejerk cynicism that usually greeted old pro's collecting a last pay cheque at Dale ( Brian Greenhoff being the most pertinent example) ? Instead there was an affectionate chant actually celebrating his age. He had a good debut at Cheltenham scoring one and making the other but the following Tuesday in the League Cup against Chesterfield he was a knackered passenger and that was more indicative.
To be fair Tony was still quite good at dead balls and when he got the ball he rarely give it away but his main contribution to a game was to slow it to walking pace. This was often an asset in away games but at home when we needed to attack teams he had nothing to offer. We went 7 home games without scoring between August and November and he was the main reason. He had his defenders like the weasel-faced guy who used to sit at the end of our row and pronounced that he was "bringing others into the game". This seemed to mean tapping the ball back to Wayne Evans for an aimless punt into a well-defended area or beckoning Clive Platt out of position to come and take the ball off him and then ... well who knows what the idea was ?
The worst of it was that while Tony trundled towards his target we were letting talented young wingers go because he wouldn't budge, first Paul Carden then Chris Bettney and Phil Hadland, all sacrificed on the altar of his vanity.
He receved an MBE in the New Years Honour List 2000 then made his 1,000th appearance in the AWS game at Carlisle in March. I was hoping he'd pack it in at the end of the season but no such luck. We had to wait until he and Parkin left for Barnsley to finally get him out of the side, Tony wisely deciding not to test the patience at Oakwell.
Tony returned without Parkin in July 1993 as coach to Alan Buckley then kept the position when Steve Parkin returned 6 months later . Had he been angling for this behind the scenes ? How did a coach switch so easily between two managers with very different footballing philosophies ? As you can see my opinion of him hadn't improved.
Since he was sacked along with Parkin in December 2006 I believe he's worked as an insurance salesman.