Looking Back At: Clive Wigginton

Clive Wigginton

Date of birth: 18.10.50

Born: Sheffield

Height: 6ft 0in

Position: Centre half

City appearancesLeague: 60, goals: 6, FA & League Cups: 4, goals: 1, Total: 64, goals: 7

Clive Anthony Wigginton (not ‘Wiggington’ as his name is sometimes mis-spelt), was born in Sheffield and was the nephew of long-serving Grimsby Town player Ron Cockerill (and therefore the cousin of later Imps player Glenn Cockerill). Wigginton emulated his uncle in playing for the Sheffield Schools side and also appeared for Yorkshire Grammar Schools before joining Fourth Division Grimsby Town as an apprentice.

Turning professional in the summer of 1968 Wigginton made his first-team debut at the age of 18 for the Mariners on 28 February 1969 in a 2-0 defeat at Newport. He made one other appearance for Grimsby that season when the “promising youngster” took the place of the suspended Graham Rathbone against Lincoln City in a 1-1 draw at Blundell Park, escaping a late penalty claim after bringing down the Imps’ speedy striker Rod Fletcher.

 

The following season he played in almost half of Grimsby’s games and scored his first goal for the club. He deputised again for the injured Rathbone against the Imps at Blundell Park and also featured in the return match at Sincil Bank, both won 2-0 by Lincoln. He was restricted to no more than ten appearances the following season, but in 1971/72 again appeared in about half of Grimsby’s games, scoring two goals as the Mariners, now managed by Lawrie McMenemy, won the Fourth Division championship.

Wigginton finally established himself as a first-choice player in the 1972/73 season in Division Three, playing a total of 47 league and cup games and scoring one goal, while the following season he played in every single game – 54 in all – scoring two goals. However, in 1974/75, after appearing regularly in the first half of the season he lost his place and the following summer walked out on the club in protest over low pay and worked as a labourer with an oil company.

Wigginton then dropped down into the Fourth Division again, signing for Scunthorpe United for the start of the 1975/76 season. In two years with the Iron, he missed just a handful of games, with a total of 45 in league and cups in his first season, scoring two goals, including one from the penalty spot, as the Iron just managed to stay out of the bottom four. They recorded a similar finish at the end of the 1976/77 season as Wigginton for the second time in his career was ever-present for his club with a total of 51 games in league and cup scoring 6 goals – two more of them penalties.

Following the departure of manager Graham Taylor to Watford Lincoln City made a poor start to the 1977/78 season under Taylor’s former assistant George Kerr, one of the reasons being that no replacement had seemingly been thought necessary for centre half Sam Ellis who had followed Taylor to Watford, Five games into the season Kerr belatedly acted to bring in the 26-year-old Wigginton for a fee of £5,000. He had not played for Scunthorpe in the season so far after for the second time walking out on a club over a contractual dispute and had in fact been working on the construction of the Humber Bridge. He completed his round of the leading Lincolnshire clubs saying, “Lincoln are…a very good team. All they need is a big strong centre half.”

Wigginton made his debut for Lincoln in a 1-0 defeat at Oxford but this was followed by the first league win of the season by 2-0 at Portsmouth. Partnering the promising youngster Dean Crombie, clean sheets were also kept in the next two games, although results then began to deteriorate, including a 5-0 thrashing at Cambridge. Wigginton scored his first goal for the Imps from the penalty spot in a 3-2 FA Cup defeat at Preston as the poor results continued, leading to the replacement of George Kerr as manager by Willie Bell. The new man’s first act was to drop the 20-year-old Crombie and restore Terry Cooper, one of the mainstays of the Taylor years to form a more experienced central defence alongside Wigginton. The player himself admitted that despite the defence keeping clean sheets in three of his first four games he had not so far been at his best for Lincoln.  However, now appointed team captain in place of the injury-troubled John Ward his partnership with Cooper became a key factor in a slow but steady rise from the relegation zone. Wigginton was ever-present in the side as the Imps finished a respectable 16th, playing in a total of 42 league and cup games in the remainder of the season, scoring five goals, three of them penalties.

 

Under Willie Bell the 1978/79 season got off to an even worse start than the previous one as it appeared the manager’s coaching and motivational skills had deserted him during the close season. Clearly off his form, Wigginton was held responsible for defensive mistakes which saw defeat by Fourth Division Bradford City over the two legs of the League Cup First round tie played before the start of the league season. Dropped for the next two games he then returned and kept his place for a run of nine defeats in twelve games leading to the sacking of Willie Bell. Dropped by caretaker boss Jim McCalliog he was restored to the side by new manager Colin Murphy four matches later in place of injured youngster Mick Smith following what was described as a commanding performance in a reserve match.

Wigginton played a further seven matches for the Imps under Colin Murphy, his last game coming in a 2-0 defeat at Colchester towards the end of February before returning to his original club Grimsby Town for a fee of £10,000. Although this rather left the squad short of central defenders Colin Murphy was evidently under instructions to reduce the size – and the wage bill – of the squad. The transfer fee received was double what City had paid for the centre half 18 months before so in that sense was a good bit of business for the club. The fee would eventually total more than £10,000 as there was a clause that would bring City an additional payment if Grimsby won promotion, which they did.

After being appointed manager Colin Murphy had said that he found there were several players in the squad who just didn’t want to play for the club, and it seems likely Wigginton was one of these – or perhaps it was a case of him no longer wanting to play for the then manager. Wigginton had done well under Willie Bell the previous season, but following the change which seemed to come over the pious Scotsman during the summer it seemed he was one of the players Murphy was talking about when he said “When I see good players lacking in confidence on the field, I don’t blame them, I blame the coaches and managers.”

Wigginton made a total of 22 league and cup appearances for the Imps during the 1978/79 season scoring two goals, one from the penalty spot.  When he joined Grimsby, they were in fourth place at the time and he made a further 18 appearances in the season, renewing his partnership with Dean Crombie who had joined them after being released by Bell as the Mariners won promotion from the Fourth Division in second place.

Further success was to come in the following season, with former Imps manager George Kerr now in charge as Grimsby, with Wigginton continuing to partner Dean Crombie in defence, won the Third Division championship. Wigginton missed only two league games, scoring one goal, and also played in four FA Cup ties and no less than nine in the League Cup as Grimsby knocked Second Division Notts County out of the competition, along with Everton, as they reached the quarter-finals, only losing to Wolves after two replays.

Playing in the Second Division for the first time, Wigginton then had probably the best season of his career in 1980/81 as Grimsby finished in seventh place, the centre half again missing only two league games and appearing in three cup ties.

After a good start to the following season Grimsby then began to struggle leading to the dismissal of George Kerr, and the now 31-year-old Wigginton lost his place under new manager David Booth. His last game for the Mariners came at the beginning of March 1982 after appearing in 24 league and cup games, scoring one goal. He then went on loan to Third Division Doncaster Rovers managed by ex-Leeds star Billy Bremner for the remainder of the season, playing 13 games and scoring one goal.

Released by Grimsby in the summer of 1982 Wigginton then joined Fourth Division club Torquay United but had only played eleven games for them when Billy Bremner took him back to Doncaster on a permanent basis in an exchange deal which saw midfielder Alan Little move the other way. However, the Rovers endured a poor season, seldom out of the Third Division relegation zone, and finished in 23rd place. After appearing in 20 league and cup games for Doncaster Wigginton then left league football at the age of 32, joining Gainsborough Trinity for the start of the following season.

On the move again within Lincolnshire Wigginton then had a spell as player-manager of Lincolnshire League side Skegness Town from December 1983 and later appeared for AFC Ferryboat in the Lincoln Sunday League

After finishing with full-time football Clive Wigginton went into the asbestos removal business. For a time, he owned his own company in the Surrey area and later held senior positions with other companies involved in the managing of building related risks such as asbestos.

Clive Wigginton made a total of 483 appearances in the Football League, scoring 22 goals.

Thanks to Gary Parle for help with this article