THE club are saddened to hear of the passing of former Grimsby Town captain Don Donovan.
Don Donovan, the epitome of a cultured full-back, played and captained the Mariners in some of their golden years of the late fifties and early sixties.
Town fans of the era could almost certainly name the team from the heart - Barnett, Donovan (Captain) Keeble; Welbourne, Jobling, Knights; Scott, Rafferty, Cullen, Hunt, Fell!
Grimsby Town had signed Donovan from Everton, where he had played international football for his native Eire, between 1954 and 1957 gaining 5 caps. Everton had signed him almost by chance when their manager Cliff Britton took his side on a tour of Eire, and on a walk spotted a local cup-tie, and in that game he was impressed by "our" Donal! He played mostly at right-half at Goodison, and was then signed for £8,000 in the summer of 1958 by Manager Allenby Chilton.
His first match for Town was ironically against Everton's rivals, Liverpool, where a 47,000+ gate saw Town draw a thriller 3-3! Although that first season of Don's saw Town relegated, he took part in some quite remarkable games that stand out in the memory, including the duo of FA Cup games against Manchester City, where Town won at Maine Road (two goals by Ron Cockerill) after drawing at Blundell Park. Other matches included a 4-4 against Lincoln City, a 5-1 victory over Cardiff City, and a couple of large defeats at Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol Rovers.
Don was always a commanding figure, neat on the ball, and the source of many Town build-ups from the back. Though those of us who saw him probably have him "fixed" in that right-back spot, he was used at left back, right half and left-half on quite a few occasions.
Town were destined to spend three years in the newly-formed Third Division, and in that third year, by Christmas it looked as though a fourth was on the cards with the Mariners doing nothing startling, and languishing in 12th spot. Suddenly everything clicked, and an amazing run saw Town arrive at Brentford for the last game of the season looking to cement promotion, with only QPR capable of stopping them! But in front of a crowd of over 19,000 swollen by QPR fans cheering on their London rivals and hoping for a favour, the Mariners eased to a glorious 2-0 victory, and a long remembered photo of dressing room celebrations with Don probably the calmest of all as they celebrated with .... a cup of tea!
Don's remaining games for Town were all played in the Second Division save for 4 FA Cup games in the 1964-5 season, when he was one of the last players to play at Old Trafford in a competitive match .... the second replay versus Barrow being played there in front of 9;000 fans, as Town finally saw off the north-western side.
Don then went "down the road" to Boston United, a side struggling financially and in every other sense. He steered the south Lincolnshire outfit to three Championships in four years and made them a side to be reckoned with! Adding those successes to his promotions with both Everton and Grimsby! He has also been the PFAs golf champion!
Town fans will remember Don with great affection, and even when not at the club, he made yet another contribution to it .... when his son Terry joined, and followed his father as an Eire international. Keeley Donovan, the Look North weather presenter, is Don's grand-daughter.
Purely on a personal note, I used to stand in the Osmond, slightly to the right of the goal. Maybe that's the reason whenever I look back on season's gone by, I can always see in my mind's eye the cultured figure of Don Donovan with the ball in that area in front of the Main and Osmond stands, perfectly balanced, looking up to deliver yet another telling pass forward, in one of the most iconic Town teams ever to grace Blundell Park.
Thanks for the memories Don!
Our thoughts are with Don's family at this time.
There will be a period of applause ahead of Saturday’s game against Tamworth for Don.
Picture: Roy Player (standing) Clarrie Williams, Jimmy Hill (yes, THAT Jimmy Hill) and Don Donovan, Blundell Park, v Fulham