The Mariners have had many tremendous Welsh players over the years; to celebrate St David’s Day, here’s eleven of the best of them.
Goalkeeper: David Felgate
A well-travelled goalkeeper who spent two seasons with the Mariners between 1985 and 1987 but is best remembered for spells with Lincoln City, Bolton, Chester City and latterly Leigh RMI. A popular stopper who served as understudy to Neville Southall in the Welsh national side, earning his solitary cap against Romania in 1983. He made 36 appearances in his time at Blundell Park and played into his mid-40s around the Manchester area, where he now serves as Academy Goalkeeping Coach at Manchester City.
Actually born in Germany, where his father was serving for the RAF, Neilson came through the ranks at Newcastle, originally as a centre half. He quickly earned full Welsh honours and went onto star for Southampton and Fulham before moving to Blundell Park in October 2001. He struggled to hold down a regular spot in the Mariners’ side and was released in February 2002. A successful spell at Luton followed before he saw out his playing days with Tamworth and Salisbury before returning to Kenilworth Road on the coaching staff in June 2008. He now serves as the Hatters’ assistant manager and has had two caretaker spells in charge of the club.
Centre Half: Thomas
A star of the late-1890s, centre back Thomas Chapman played 50 times for Town in his two seasons on the East Coast. He had made his name in Welsh football with Newtown, where he won the Welsh Cup in 1895, as well as earning caps for his country. Described as a sturdy player who kicked the ball, headed and tackled with power and good judgment and was an excellent distributor to the strikers. Thomas moved down to Kent with Chatham after his spell with the Mariners.
Centre Half: Graham Rathbone
Snapped up for a bargain £10,000 in 1966 by manager Jimmy McGuigan, Graham Rathbone made nearly 250 league appearances in his seven seasons as a Mariner. The pinnacle of Rathbone’s Town career came as the Mariners lifted the Division Four title in 1972. Born in Newport, Rathbone had made his name in Wales with Merthyr Tydfil and Newport before moving north and he later turned out for Cambridge and Kettering. Graham sadly passed away earlier this year after an illness.
Left-Back: Darren Barnard
A July 2002 signing from Barnsley, Barnard had impressed for the Tykes for a number of seasons, especially in the Premier League, with his eye for spectacular goals and delivery from set pieces. Another Welsh international with German origin, Darren had originally made his name with Chelsea. He again scored spectacular goals in his time at Blundell Park but the Mariners struggled and were relegated in two successive seasons, although Barnard enjoyed a renaissance at international level as Mark Hughes’ Welsh side narrowly missed out on Euro 2004.