Cult heroes

Date published: 02 June 2015

A quarter of a century on from Athletic’s League Cup Final appearance, the Chronicle profiles the top 25 players to have worn the famous shirt since. We have picked the top 25 players and you will get a chance to vote for your favourites later.

Week two: Sean Gregan and Ian Marshall


THE overblown furore over a piece of fabric at the recent play-off final will have brought a wry smile to the face of Sean Gregan.

A former Preston player, the imposing centre-back and epitome of an on-field leader always enjoyed himself against Jermaine Beckford, scorer of the hat-trick in the League One play-off final to promote the Lilywhites at Swindon’s expense.

Beckford, a former colleague at Leeds, never wrought the kind of damage he did at Wembley against the man from Guisborough, who is currently a coach at Darlington.

While a tug-of-war took place in the stands over Beckford’s shirt, physical battles on the field rarely went against Gregan.

But his dominance belied a delicate touch in possession — little wonder, given the amount of time he spent in a midfield role prior to his arrival at Boundary Park.

Twice player of the year at Preston, he joined North End after two years playing professionally at Darlington.

Gregan made 255 appearances for the Deepdale club and became an icon to the extent that he was in recent years named by supporters in the club’s all time XI — alongside Sir Tom Finney and another familiar face to Athletic fans, David Eyres.

Following a mixed spell at Leeds after a stint playing for West Brom, helping them back into the Premiership at the first time of asking after relegation, John Sheridan brought Gregan in initially on loan.

His impact helped the club reach the play-offs in the 2006-07 season. Though Dave Penney later opted to release him, chairman Simon Corney played his role in getting Gregan back in to lead the fight against relegation with the skipper’s armband.

Gregan remained a favourite of fans and staff alike up until things turned sour under Paul Dickov at the start of the 2010-11 season.

“When I played I think people could see that I was a trier and they appreciate that,” said Gregan, who enjoyed an unbroken sequence of 75 matches for Athletic up until being frozen out.

Ian Marshall

THE man, the legend, the ‘Moose’.

At centre-back or centre-forward, the Scouser with the big wit and bobbing mullet was a massive presence in Joe Royle’s great sides of the early 1990s.

Before our start date of the League Cup final of 1990, he had already secured his place in Athletic folklore.

A £100,000 signing from Everton, it was Marshall’s extra-time penalty that settled a second FA Cup quarter-final against his former club and his volley which ripped into the net in the 3-3 semi-final draw against Manchester United that same season.

“Ian Marshall was always mithering me to play up front and the way we were set up to be tactically flexible, we could accommodate that,” said Royle, of the famous 6-0 League Cup thrashing of West Ham.

“We came in 3-0 up at half-time and I said to Marshy straight away to get back into the back four — yet we went and scored twice more at the start of the second half anyway.”

Royle’s strong beliefs in Marshall’s best role on the field led to clashes between the larger than life characters, which have been resolved.

“To give him his due Joe said to me, ‘if you’d have played centre-half you would have played for England’.

“And I always used to say to him, ‘you can clear as many shots off the line and make as many tackles as you want but there is no feeling like scoring a goal’.

Thrill-seeker Marshall went on to make a total of 204 appearances for Athletic as a mainstay of the glory years, scoring 40 times.

He was part of the side which gained promotion to the top flight in dramatic fashion in 1991 and starred in the Premier League before switching to Ipswich for £750,000 two years later.

He netted on debut for the Tractor Boys against Athletic and didn’t hold back with his celebration in front of Royle. Marshall is still the only Premier League player to score five times in his first five games for a club, an achievement he managed at Ipswich.

Stints at Leicester, Bolton and Blackpool followed in his career, before he moved to Canada. He now runs a football school in Ipswich.