* temporary/caretaker manager
2009 - 2010
Ipswich and England manager Bobby Robson once said of Paul Mariner: "He was not a good player - he was a great player." Yet, if Mariner had not been spotted by Plymouth Argyle, it is possible that he might never have become a professional footballer.
Paul Mariner was born in Bolton on May 22, 1953, and played football from an early age, becoming captain of his primary school team. When he left school, however, he took up an engineering apprenticeship. At the age of 17, he signed for non-League Chorley Town, where he was top scorer in 1972-1973 with 19 goals, and it was there that he was spotted by an Argyle scout. Manager Tony Waiters arranged for him to join Argyle's pre-season tour of Cornwall, where he impressed enough to be signed in July 1973 for £6,000.
When he arrived at Home Park, Mariner was a raw talent: even though he scored twice on his first team debut, and again in his second outing, there were still doubts as to whether he would make the grade. As the season progressed, however, he became a key player. His footwork was nimble, he was a strong header of the ball, his shooting was unparalleled, and he served as an inspiration to the rest of the team. In that first season, Mariner scored 15 League and Cup goals; his reward was to be voted Player of the Year.
In 1974-1975, as one writer has put it, 'something clicked' between Mariner and Billy Rafferty, who had arrived from Blackpool in March 1974. The two were very similar in their style of play: both were skilful on the ball and good in the air, and both scored goals by the netload. By May 1975, Mariner had scored 21, Rafferty a superb 26, Argyle were promoted to the Second Division, and Mariner was Player of the Year again, the first ever to win it two seasons in a row.
The step up a division had little, if any, impact on Mariner. Continuing his partnership with Rafferty, he continued to scythe through defences, scoring 15 League and one Cup goals and helping Argyle to a respectable 16th-place finish. The havoc created by Argyle's front pairing had, understandably, begun to attract attention from other clubs, and the summer of 1976 was a fraught one for Argyle fans, who daily expected news of his transfer. No such news arrived, though, and Mariner started the 1976-1977 season with seven goals in ten appearances
The inevitable had only been postponed, however. In October 1976, having beaten off competition from West Bromwich Albion and West Ham, Ipswich manager Bobby Robson captured Mariner for £200,000 plus two players. On his Ipswich debut, Mariner scored in a 7-0 thrashing of West Brom, starting as he intended to go on. In March 1977, he scored a hat-trick against West Ham, and by the end of that season he had netted 13 times. He then started a run of three consecutive years as top scorer at Portman Road, getting 22 in 1977-1978, 17 in 1978-1979, and 22 in 1979-1980, as well as an FA Cup winners' medal in 1978. The 1980-1981 season saw Ipswich win the UEFA Cup and Mariner score an astounding 26 goals.
Meanwhile, Mariner's first England call up came just six months after he left Home Park. His first England appearance was as a substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg in March 1977, England winning 5-0. His first start came just two months later, in a 2-1 victory against Northern Ireland in the British Championship, and his first goal was in his third match, the return leg of the match against Luxembourg in October 1977, which England won 2-0. He then appeared in five more British Championship matches over the two years between May 1978 and May 1980, scoring his second England goal against Wales in May 1980, as well as playing for the England 'B' team seven times in 1978 and once in 1980.
Following a friendly against Australia, in which he scored, in May 1980, Mariner then played in the European Championship finals in Italy. England were beaten by the home side and, despite a 2-1 win over Spain, they were knocked out. Then it was back to World Cup qualification, this time for Spain 1982, Mariner scoring against both Norway and Switzerland, both of whom England beat. Defeat by Spain in a friendly of March 1981 was soon forgotten, and Mariner played in four more World Cup qualifiers between May and November 1981, against Switzerland, Hungary, Norway and Hungary again. In the last of these, at Wembley on 18 November 1981, he scored the crucial goal which secured England's place in the World Cup finals for the first time since 1970.
Before setting out for Spain, Mariner played in two friendlies, against the Netherlands and Finland, and a British Championship match against Scotland. He scored in all three matches, hitting the back of the net twice against Finland, in a fitting prelude to the 1982 World Cup finals.
England's first match, on 16 June 1982, was a 3-1 win against France in which Mariner made the scoresheet yet again. This was followed by victories against Czechoslovakia and Kuwait, during the second of which Mariner was cautioned for unsportsmanlike conduct. In the second round, though, 0-0 draws with West Germany and Spain were not enough and the World Cup odyssey was over.
During the 1982-1983 season, Mariner played in two European Championship qualifiers against Denmark, and against Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg in the same competition, scoring against the last two. He also featured in another British Championship match against Wales, in February 1983, and in a friendly with West Germany in October 1982.
In February 1984, Mariner, now aged 30, transferred to Arsenal for £150,000. His later years at Ipswich had not been quite as spectacular as his early seasons, but he never lost the scoring habit. His final tally over his eight seasons at Portman Road was 94 League goals, 19 in the FA Cup, eight in the League Cup and twelve in European competitions: a total of 133. At Highbury, he was to make 52 starts in the League, as well as coming on as a substitute eight times, and score 14 goals.
Having been capped 33 times whilst with Ipswich, Mariner won a further two as an Arsenal player, the first in a friendly with East Germany and the second in a World Cup qualifier against Romania in Bucharest. This match, on 1 May 1985, proved to be his last for England, ending an international career in which he had played 35 and scored 14, and in which he had scored in seven straight matches.
July 1986 saw Mariner on the move again, this time to Portsmouth, where he started 49 League matches and scored 9 goals before leaving on a free in the summer of 1988. Shortly after hanging up his boots, he moved to the United States, where he became a football coach.
In January 2004, Paul Mariner and Billy Rafferty were reunited as guests of honour at Argyle's home match against Rushden and Diamonds. The day was an emotional one for the two players, close friends on and off the pitch, for those supporters who were lucky enough to have seen them playing together, and for those who had only ever heard of them.
In the autumn of 2009, Paul Mariner, then assistant coach with the New England Revolution, became involved in Plymouth Argyle's bid for Plymouth to be a World Cup host city should England win the right to stage the tournament. This revival of his relationship with the club was followed by his appointment, in October 2009, as Head Coach.
On 10 December 2009, Argyle manager Paul Sturrock was relieved of his duties and Paul Mariner took charge of first team affairs, although his job title remained Head Coach. With the team already flirting with relegation from the Championship, Mariner had his work cut out and sadly he was unable to reverse the decline: Argyle were relegated to League One at the end of 2009-2010. Following the appointment of Peter Reid as manager in June 2010, Mariner reverted to his former duties.
[Kindly supplied by Peggy Prior, author of The Gaffer Tapes, a series on Argyle's managers that first appeared in matchday programmes in 2007-08]
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