I appreciate we’re covering lots of players from a certain era, but after this, I might go a bit more recent.
The thing is, I really enjoy writing these pieces and seeing the discussion that stems from them. Mick Waitt was certainly a popular figure and David Johnson brought back a lot of memories for people. Another player who brings back memories is Mark Sertori, not least because of his goal on that crucial day in May, 1988.
Mark ‘Carlo’ Sertori is certainly a figure I remember from my childhood, if not only because of his exotic name. As it turns out, he wasn’t born in Tuscany or Milan, but Manchester in September 1967. He was (is) fluent in Italian though, something that became very important after he finished playing.
He began his career with Stockport County, making just four appearances for them before joining ‘Murph’s Mission’ in the summer of 1987. It’s a seminal period of Imps’ history, that summer. Having fallen out of the Football League we were either about to wither and die, or come out fighting. Mark Sertori was a fighter, he suited our needs perfectly.
He wasn’t the most skilful of players and Murph didn’t know exactly where to play him. He had time as a striker, he played in the back four for the reserves and on his debut, a 4-2 defeat at Barnet, he played in midfield. He didn’t play there much after that.
I don’t want to say ‘limited’, it wouldn’t be entirely fair. Sertori was a one who tried. He’d give you 100%, even if his 100% wasn’t quite what was needed. He played in midfield for the first four matches of the season, dropping briefly into the back four as we thrashed Stafford 4-1 and drew 0-0 with Altrincham.
That was September 1987 and by March 1988 he’d added just six GMVC starts to that tally. He came off the bench four times and appeared in the GMAC Cup, a long forgotten competition, where he netted in a 4-1 win against Bedworth, That’s right, Bedworth.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Paul Smith picked up an injury as we entered the final straight and Sertori got his chance. He started a 0-0 draw with Enfield, bagging a brace a couple of matches later as we hosted Boston in the first ever league meeting between the two sides. We won that game 5-1 and he was back on target five days later in a 3-3 draw with Cheltenham.
Paul Smith gained fitness and Sertori was back on the bench as we endured back to back defeats at Bath and Kettering. Our Football League return was in jeopardy. Luckily, Barnet were dropping points too and we went into that final game of the season against Wycombe needing a win. Sertori was on the bench, but an early injury to John McGinley saw him enter the fray.
History will always remember his header that day, a goal that settled the nerves in front of just under 10,000 fans (if you believe the ‘official’ attendance). In the second half, Phil Brown stabbed home at the Railway End of the ground to send us up. Three generations of Hutchinsons stood right behind the goal that day, arguably the greatest moment of my childhood.
The following season he remained in the side, bagging a brace alongside the returning Gordon Hobson to earn us a win at Cambridge early on. He chipped in here and there, always seeming to score in a win. He got a winner against Darlington (3-2) and was the other scorer the evening Hobson netted a hat trick away at Burnley. Following the 2-2 Boxing Day draw against Grimsby, he lost his place in the side and struggled to win it back for the rest of the season.
He was back in the line up at the start of the 1989/90 season, again bagging braces. He scored twice as we beat Torquay 3-0, a game which saw a rare Grant Brown goal just three matches into his Imps career. Sertori was at the double again a couple of weeks later, this time beating Wrexham 2-0. Another brace followed in the Leyland DAF cup on November 29th, but fell out of favour and didn’t net again for the club.
In February of that season, Wrexham swooped in and paid £30,000 for his services. After 15 goals in 78 matches, his Imps career was over.
He converted to a centre half at Wrexham and was a Welsh Cup finalist in 1990 and 1991, before playing for Bury, Scunthorpe and York City. After that he drifted into the non-league scene with Altrincham, Accrington and Hyde. He fostered a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense centre back after leaving the club and to be fair to him, it suited his skill set far more than centre forward.
That might have been the last I could write about him, but he’s gone on to enjoy success in another field. As his career wound down he took a course learning how to be a sports masseuse, as well as reflexology and aromatherapy. Those skills saw him wind up working for the England international side. As an Italian speaker he was able to help out Fabio Capello and he travelled to the 2010 World Cup as part of the backroom team.
He’s now working for the Premier League champions, Manchester City, utilising those same skills he learned as his career came to an end. Not bad at all for a lower league journeyman although whoever he works for and whatever he achieves, he’ll always be the man that put us on the road to the GMVC title. Always.
Would he fit in now?
Once again, over to Jon Battersby for his succinct and honest assessment of the forward
“Marco” Sertori, the Italian speaking centre forward, whose name conjured up esoteric images of some cultured, dark olive skinned centre forward from Juve, or maybe even Inter Milan.
Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end for the man of Italian descent signed from Stockport as part of Murph’s Mission to get us back into the Football League in 1987.
Despite his deft header to give a nervy Lincoln City the lead in THAT promotion decider at home to Wycombe in 1988 in the Vauxhall Conference, it’s hard to find that many positives for him as a centre forward, and the fact that it took him until the end of October of the ’87-88 season to find the net, albeit from only 8 starts, basically says it all for me.
I doubt he’d get anywhere near present-day City, although his work rate and honesty as a player could never be faulted, and he was a far better header of the ball than with it at his feet. I know Danny rates hard work over talent any day in his teams, but I’m sure Mark would be the first to admit that his talents were limited as a striker and he found it difficult to hold the ball up, even if it landed right at his feet without bouncing on the bog of a pitch that was Sincil Bank in 1988.
I suspect that if DC had “inherited” Marco when coming to the club, he’d have respected his attitude and work rate above anything else, so may well have used him on and off if absolutely necessary in the non-league days, but then probably move him on with the offer of the now infamous “thanks, but no thanks” one year contract on reaching Football League status.
I’ve great respect for Sertori though, who went on to have a decent career at centre half for Wrexham and a further career as head Masseur for Manchester City and then the England national team, showing what can be achieved through hard work and application, something our current management team know all about.