My Favourite Player: Michael Boulding

Grimsby Town have not been blessed with luck over the last 10 years. But in September 2001, we signed Michael Boulding on a free transfer from Third Division team, Mansfield Town. September 2001 was a proud month as a Mariner because we sat pretty at the top of the First Division and beat Liverpool 2-1 in the League Cup.

Meanwhile, Michael quickly earned the nickname ‘Quick Mick Boulding’ and number 35 became my favourite number. In fact, I still insist on selecting 35 when I play the lottery, which is a testament to Michael’s ability and influence on me.

It could have been so different for him though –he was a promising tennis player, rooming with Tim Henman as a youngster. As a footballer for Aston Villa, he travelled across Europe (once) but as a junior tennis player Boulding was whisked across the world. He played in the junior Wimbledon event but failed to qualify for the main event. As a tennis player, Boulding peaked at 1,119 with four world ranking points and was among the top 20 British players. Boulding ended his tennis career in 1999 to become a professional footballer with Mansfield and begin his rise towards top flight stardom.

As a footballer, he gave me many happy memories and I often leapt out my seat with joy. My most memorable moment though has to be the 6-2 demolition of Wimbledon in March 2002, which included Quick Mick’s first career hat trick. Michael finished the 2001/02 season as top scorer with 11 goals in 39 appearances. Despite this, he refused to sign a contract and signed for Aston Villa on a Bosman.

To say I was devastated was an understatement but I understood his decision; what footballer wouldn’t want to play for a Premier League club? Michael scored in his second game for Villa; a 3-0 win in the Intertoto Cup but, in July 2002, without a Premier League appearance to his name, he was sent on loan to Sheffield United with a view to a permanent move.

Michael scored once for Sheffield United but an ankle injury restricted his opportunities and they opted not to sign him. However, in January 2003, Boulding returned to my beloved Mariners on an 18-month contract. Michael only managed four goals that campaign and was unable to prevent the club from relegation to the Second Division.

Twelve months into his contract, and following the sacking of Paul Groves as manager; Boulding left for Barnsley, declaring that he only stayed at the club for Groves. He did however score 13 goals for Grimsby in the 2003/4 campaign and finished the season as Grimsby’s joint top scorer.

Quick Mick always regretted leaving Grimsby Town and never settled in his first spell at Barnsley as Paul Hart played him on the left wing. Quick Mick only played six more games for the Tykes after calling the position “the graveyard shift.”

He says he regretted this move as Grimsby Town provided him with the happiest days of his football career and it is my belief that had he stayed, he would have graced Channel 5 on a Thursday night – be it for Grimsby or a Premier League team such as Liverpool.

Grimsby Town fan James Howes is currently working on his dissertation as he completes the final year of a Business Management degree.

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