You know this mini-series is all about me going through old programmes and today I’ve had some time doing just that!
It’s always exciting (for me) when I get to have a rummage and as I’m sorting my collection and furiously buying on eBay, I thought I ought to have a clear out. That led me to pick another player from the past to talk about; Mick Waitt.
This is the sort of article that I know will only appeal to a handful of people, but the PlayStation network is down and I can’t crack on with my Football League World stuff for tomorrow until more news breaks, so it’s time to be self-indulgent. I know Mandi Slater will at least like this.
Who was Mick Waitt? From 1984 until 1987 he was a striker for Notts County, standing at 6ft 4in tall. He bagged 32 goals in 88 appearances for the Magpies, but in the summer of 1987 he committed to Colin Murphy’s Imps, with the fee reported as around £17,500.
At first, he was a huge success, immediately endearing himself to Imps fans with a debut goal as we went down 4-2 at Barnet. The GMVC fixtures were not kind to us, sending us away to Barnet, the favourites, then again to Weymouth, a side ambitious and with a bit of cash. They beat us 3-0 and after two matches we were bottom of the GMVC.
Three games later we were in better shape. Waitt got the only goal of the game as we beat Runcorn, a decent side back then, as well as bagging a hattrick as we hammered Stafford Rangers 4-1. The Imps were up and running and they were being led by their big man up top.
Waitt was a perfect target man, great in the air but he could finish as well. He wasn’t as athletic as John Akinde is today, but he was almost certainly as aerially dominant as anyone we have on our books.
The goals slowed a little, he grabbed two as we beat Bath City 3-0, then netted away against Maidstone to give us a 2-1 win. By the end of October he had seven goals from 14 appearances and Cheltenham Town lay in wait.
We’re used to playing the Robins now, but this was the first meeting between the two sides. On a cold, damp afternoon at Sincil Bank, Waitt’s career took a nasty turn. The Imps won 5-1, but Waitt’s leg was smashed in a collision with the keeper and his season was over. The crack was sickening, it’s said you could hear it outside the ground, such was the force he collided with the keeper. It was potentially a career-ending moment.
The Imps went on to win the GMVC, John McGinley and Phil Brown took over the scoring responsibilities. They’d netted five between them up until that point, but ended up with 20 a piece.
Waitt’s injury was so bad he was out for almost two years, but he battled back showing immense fortitude and dedication. He returned in the 1989/90 season and made seven Football League appearances, bagging just once against Halifax Town. He had the number ten shirt taken off him first by Paul Smith, then later in the season by Tony Lormor. Waitt was released at the end of the campaign.
He drifted into the non-league scene and spent time in Hong Kong before emigrating to New Zealand in 1992. He signed for Napier, scored four goals in 21 matches and later went on to manage them, winning the National Soccer League twice, as well as finishing runner-up. He was named New Zealand Soccer Media Association Coach of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 1998. He eventually managed their international side from 2002 to 2004.
Would he fit in now?
Mick harped back to the old days as a player, one half of a ‘little man, big man’ combo. It’s not seen as much in the modern game, instead a 4-5-1 or a variation of that is preferred with a physical striker able to run the channels and hold the ball up.
I can’t see Mick fitting in to the modern game, certainly not the way we play. He’s more akin to Matt Rhead, not as physcial in terms of size but certainly every bit as good in the air. His form at Notts County showed he had plenty to offer in terms of goals as well.
In today’s Imps’ squad he’d be the impact sub, but back in his day you could only have two on the bench. Tactically, he’d be a great asset in the modern game and as his career after the Imps proved, he understood the game too.