The Grimsby legend who Tilson could have made an Imp

The word legend gets bandied about fairly often these days. A bloke who drinks a pint of vodka in one go gets labelled a legend, or a guy who takes pictures of TK Maxx warehouses whilst on away trips to Everton.

I know some would happily label Rheady an Imps’ legend, me included. After all, being part of our rise in the way he has will surely afford him that status once he departs, even if he people don’t see that right now.

A week or two ago, Grimsby Town keeper James McKeown put in the sort of performance that has seen him billed the best in the League Two. He’s a decent keeper, that much is true, but most Cods would tell you he’s a legend. He’s stuck by them when things have been tough, seen National League promotion and given them some small morsel of comfort during the last season or two. 

He’s played 394 times for them as well. That’s pretty special by anyone’s standards.

Before all of that though, the stopper could have been an Imp. He even pulled on our jersey for a trial match, but a certain Steve Tilson didn’t think he was good enough, eight years ago to this very day.

James McKeown – By Mattythewhite – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

It’s 2010/11, we’re utter shit and Steve Tilson is still masquerading as a football manager. The Christmas period hasn’t been entirely kind to us, the weather means no action from November 27th until New Year’s Day. Prior to ten inches of snow hitting the ground before the advent calendars were open, we’d lost just one in five. That was 5-0 at home to Bury though, which prompted Tilson to hunt new blood at the back.

In the first three games of the New Year we reverted to our previous form, losing to Bradford on New Year’s Day, then again against Northampton before a late FA Cup second round tie was also lost at the Bank, 4-3 against Hereford. Anyon and the paper-thin defence had let in 15 in just five games and with Gavin Hoyte going off injured against the Bulls, it was time for trialists.

McKeown had recently been released by Peterborough, having been on loan at Boston as a 21-year old. His performances at York Street were remarkable, he kept 10 clean sheets in 14 BSP North matches. Tilson decided to throw him into a trial match against Hull City reserves. He also wanted a look at a former York City defender called Djoumin Sangare.

His mind had already been made up about Sangare, also (and more conveniently) known as ‘Jimmy’. He wanted the former York City man, despite his most recent football coming in the Blue Square Premier. The 6ft 1in defender had been born in Dunkirk, but represented Grays, Salisbury and the Minstermen to name but a few. He seemed to be a strong and commanding figure and Tilson had already offered a short-term deal.

It would have been easy to miss this news though, because a few days earlier we’d lost Richard Butcher. The club were in mourning and whilst Tilson still had a job to do, the two trialists turning out on North Ferriby’s ground against Hull were unlikely to make headline news. 

Sangare playing for York – By Mattythewhite – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Sangare was even less likely to make headlines when it was revealed he’d turned us down for Chris Wilder’s Oxford United. He came on trial, was offered a deal and then opted not to sign. Make of that what you will. On January 11th he was due to face Hull reserves in red and white, on January 15th he was a late sub for Oxford as they beat Bradford 2-1.

One down, one to go. McKeown made his appearance for City but as hard as I’ve tried on this blustery afternoon, I can’t find out the outcome of the game. McKeown wasn’t signed, but a few days later Trevor Carson was. Not long after that we got the big centre half we wanted too, a former QPR player called Pat Kanyuka. That’s the second time in four blogs I’ve mentioned him and it makes me want to die inside.

We all know what McKeown went on to do, but he didn’t go directly to Blunder Park. He played a one-off game for Boston United as a free agent before ending the season with RKSV Leonidas in the Netherlands who, if I’m not mistake, didn’t concede six at home against Rotherham or five against Shrewsbury. Just sayin’.

As for Sangare, his Oxford career didn’t pan out well either. He played four times, two starts and twice from the bench, before breaking his foot and finding himself released in May 2011. He wasn’t wanted by Tilson during the rebuilding process and his next match action came in the BSP for Kettering, curiously against Grimsby who had none other than James McKeown in goal. 

Later that season he played against the Imps as we went down 1-0 at Rockingham Road but was last seen in 2013 playing for a French amateur side called Gravelines.

McKeown will likely be in goal this week against us, hoping not to concede three early on as he did last season (see main picture). Sangare is likely somewhere in France not giving a hoot about Lincoln, Grimsby or the manager who missed a great chance to sign two half-decent players, before going on to make us endure Elliott Parrish and that Pat fella I keep mentioning.