Home > Football > Grimsby Town-Part 3. The Bonetti incident.

Grimsby Town-Part 3. The Bonetti incident.

The Luton Town match involved the famous Ivano Bonneti / chicken drumsticks incident:

The game was going really well. We were 2-1 up with about 20 minutes to play. I had scored both of our goals. We got pegged back to 2-2 which prompted me to be substituted. Brian Laws was playing that day and signalled over to assistant Kenny Swain to take me off after I gave the ball away when I shouldn’t. I was furious. In fact I was thinking of having a right moan up at him after the match. I had scored 2 goals so felt really hard done by.

We ended up losing the match 3-2. It was a real sickened. Because I had finished the game on the bench I was one of the first back in the changing room after the final whistle. Moments later in walked the players who had completed the match. Ivano Bonetti was followed in by Brian Laws who was furious.

As Bonetti entered the dressing room he began to eat some sandwiches provided by the home team. The media had reported it as a tray of chicken wings but I can tell you that it was sandwiches, not that it matters. Anyway Brian Laws saw him eating the sandwiches and had a right snap at Bonetti. ‘We’ve just f***** lost and you’re eating f****** sandwiches you c***’

That might not be the exact wording but I think you get the gist. Now Bonetti, for all his class, didn’t come across as the type who would beat himself up too much in defeat and Brian Laws was extremely passionate and was obviously not too happy that the first thing on Bonetti’s mind was to fill his stomach. Bonetti replied with something in Italian. I don’t speak a word of Italian but judging by the tone it was not very complimentary.

Within a split second the tray of sandwiches were smashed  to the ceiling and the next thing I knew there were people everywhere trying to calm the situation down.  Bonetti’s interpreter, Dario, who was always close by and sat on the bench during matches had since came into the changing room to see his boy at the centre of it all joined in the fiasco. By that time there were enough players in there to pull them apart and defuse the situation.  I couldn’t believe it. It made me feel pretty glad that I didn’t cause too much of a stir about my substitution.

So before we left the ground we were all told not to speak to any reporters. Bonetti and  Dario made sure that it made the news though. They played it well to be fair to them. The FA Cup replay at home to West Ham brought more media attention to Grimsby Town then usual and they used this to tell their side of the story. There were rumours of a broken cheekbone which didn’t look good. There was speculation leading up to the match that Laws would be sacked before the match but that didn’t happen. We won the replay which made it really difficult for the club to sack Brian Laws if that’s what they were thinking. West Ham had played on the Monday night and then played us two days later which must have had an effect on the score line. We had our A game with us that night and won well in the end with me scoring our third goal in an easy victory 

I played particularly well that night and deserved my goal. After the game Laws greeted me with a ‘thank you’. In my experience in the game few managers ever say ‘thank you’. They may well lavish you with praise with a ‘well done’ but the ‘thank you’ might well have been a sign of the situation.

Next up was Chelsea at home in the FA Cup 5th round. It was the next match after the West Ham replay. It was a huge match for us. Ruud Gullit was in the Chelsea team at that time and it was a game that I was really looking forward to. The game was on a Wednesday night at Blundell Park. We were in that morning to go through a few things in preparation for the match. I was called up to the manager’s office as I was getting changed. That could only mean one thing. I was being dropped. The reason for me not playing was because I did not offer an aerial threat. He thought Woods and Livingstone would give them more problems. Yes that was definitely true. My aerial capabilities are pretty much zero but that wasn’t the point. I had played really well in the previous match against West Ham. I had scored and set another of our goals up. And we had won. There was no way a more senior pro would have been left out under those circumstances and it was a hard blow to take. Over time you can spot it when you are going to be dropped. You kind of get a gut feeling for it. Sometimes managers give you little indirect signs in the week leading up to a game. They might do some work with a team they have in mind for the next game and leave you out. Sometimes they can’t look you in the eye all week or behave over friendly towards you. Normally it comes on a Friday morning before training because the team is announced on a Friday in most cases and managers like to tell you alone before everybody else finds out. It is their way of showing a little bit of respect for you as they tell you that you aren’t needed. Overtime you get used to it but as a young player it hurts that little bit more. There is always a reason to make a joke out of these opportunities. You know as soon as the manager or assistant pokes his head into the changing room door to have a chat with somebody on a Friday morning you know it’s his turn for the chop. Every player goes through it at some point so you have to try to take it with a pinch of salt if you can.  

My social life was awesome during my time at Grimsby Town. Many of the lads lived locally and we had a really good bunch. There was a pretty large drinking culture at the club and I was right in the middle of it. Wednesdays were the most memorable. Normally it would begin with a round of golf followed by a quick bite to eat and then straight on it! It would regularly mean a 12 hour drinking binge ending up in Pier 39. Saturdays were different though. I could only manage a 7 hour binge. All of this coincided with a real upturn in my performances and I thought that if it was working then I should keep on doing what I was doing. The funny thing is that I really couldn’t take my drink at all. Hangovers were a regular occurence and Thursday’s training sessions were an absolute right off. There was always somebody to go out with though which made it all too easy. On another Wednesday there was a reserve game which was an evening kick-off. I think it was Hull City away. Not too far, about 45 minutes, so we had arranged to get straight out. To save time we took our going out gear on the bus with us ,packed away so the management didn’t see it, and all got changed at the back of the bus on the journey home. As we parked up at Blundell Park there was a quick surge to get off the bus and get amongst the action. Kenny Swain, who took the reserve team that night must have wondered what the hell was going on as we all waltzed past him with our gear on stinking of after shave. That sort of thing could never happen these days. Not that we all went out after a match. It was more of the ‘intent’ which wouldn’t be accepted nowadays. There has been less tolerance to drinking over recent years.  This is probably because the game is certainly faster than it has ever been. You really do need to be on your game all the time. I think the game is better for it and it led to me drinking much less the older I got. Maybe I was easily led but I over did it massively in my time at Blundell Park and it cost me in the end.

Another lad, Kevin Jobling, also loved a drink. He used to smuggle bottles of beer on to the team bus for those long journeys back from away matches. He couldn’t take his drink at all and was well on his way after only a couple of bottles. My lasting memory of playing with Kevin was during those journeys. By the time we had arrived back in Grimsby he was absolutely plastered. Near Blundell Park  the bus always had to negotiate a few roundabouts coming off the A180 and we all used to take a look at the back seat of the bus to see Kevin being swayed uncontrollably from each side of the bus, banging into the sides with a clatter !

The following season Brian Laws lost his job….

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Categories: Football
  1. Mr Meggie
    October 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Cheers Jamie,your insights into the Mariners dressing room are most illuminating.I never did quite understand why Laws was sacked.A lot was made of the Bonetti incident,but I always rated Mr Laws.

  2. Co-op Stand Imp
    October 16, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Jamie, when is the book coming out? This is sensational stuff compared to a lot of autobiographies.

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