Wednesday, 9 March 2011
303 Gareth Griffiths
Position : Centre half
Played : 2001-02 to 2005-06
Appearances : 184
So we move into the 2001-02 season and our first involvement in the play-offs. Due to family events this is the last one that seems a long time ago to me. There are still arguments over this season as to where the credit should go for our first flirtation with promotion and ultimately it's a question that can never be resolved. The facts are , we were 2nd in the table when Steve Parkin left for Barnsley but we were 5th (our final position) when John Hollins took over after a month under the stewardship of David Hamilton. The Parkinistas claim we would have gone straight up if he'd stayed but we'd been in good positions the previous two seasons and let it slide ; there was every chance of it happening again especially with a now suspect defence. I think you've got to call it a draw and credit them both (but not DH) for a memorable season.
Gareth was signed on a free transfer from Wigan as one of the replacements for the controversially released Hill and Monington. Gareth's nationality was a cause of confusion. He was actually born in England but began his footballing career with Rhyl. Port Vale paid £1,000 to take him into League football in 1995. He made 94 appearances over 3 1/2 seasons at VAle Park but fell out of favour in the final one going out on loan to Shrewsbury in 1997. He signed for Wigan on a free in 1998 but they used him sparingly when they came up against a big striker and he had made 54 appearances by the time they released him.
Gareth's Dale career followed a U-shaped trajectory. He was very impressive to start with then went through a very wobbly period before finding his form again and becoming a hero. To begin with he looked a more than adequate replacement for Monno. He was even better in the air and tackled well on the ground too, few strikers being able to escape from his telescopic legs. Even with Coleman beside him he looked sound as a pound and a key figure as we shot to the top of the table.
I think things started to go a bit awry when Richard Jobson arrived at the club and got him involved with the PFA. That seemed to take his eye off the ball as far as his performances on the field were concerned. He was never as sound under John Hollins as he had been under Parkin. He was even worse for Paul Simpson , still a force to be reckoned with in the air as Coventry for one found out but very vulnerable on the ground - "Bambi on Ice" as one fan described him.
I was amazed when Gareth, now 33 was given a two-year contract in the summer of 2003. I remember mentioning this to a well known stalwart at the pre-season game at Radcliffe and he replied "Gareth Griffiths scored 8 goals last season (pause) let in 40 at the other end mind ! " It didn't get any better under Alan Buckley and Gareth drove the biggest nail in the former's coffin with a calamitous last minute cock-up at Mansfield which gave them the points in Buckley's penultimate game.
The moment Parkin got back in, Gareth seemed to recover his old form like flicking a light switch. He became one of our most reliable players. I wouldn't credit him with getting us out of the mire that season since he played a large part in putting us there but he certainly played well in the following two seasons and in 2004 had a valedictory game in the LDV against Scarborough (a game I missed ) when he got a hat trick. He decided to retire after an injury-hit final season in May 2006 and that was a big blow to Parkin. If he'd helped him back in he also paved the way for his departure.
He signed for Northwich in July 2006 and played 27 games for them before being injured in the new year upon which he was unusually loaned back to us as an extra aide to the recently-appointed Keith Hill. Apart from remaining a trustee of the PFA Gareth is no longer involved in football but has a succesful career as a financial consultant and businessman.