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Taking on the powerhouses: Grimsby’s golden age in the FA Cup

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I t’s hard to know what, in the year 2023, looks more far-fetched. That when Grimsby play Brighton on Sunday they will be attempting to reach the club’s third FA Cup semi-final, not the first; or that the previous runs to the last four, which included wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, had nothing to do with David or Goliath.

Grimsby’s semi-final appearances in 1936 and 1939 were highlights of the greatest period in the club’s history. From 1929–48, including a break for the second world war, they spent 10 out of 12 seasons in the top flight.

All three of Grimsby’s England internationals were capped in that time: the inside-forward Jackie Bestall (described in this paper as an “artful dodger and constructive genius”), the goalkeeper George Tweedy and the inspirational centre-back Harry Betmead each made a single appearance between 1935 and 1937.

Only two powerhouses of English football – and, in one case, some grotesque ill fortune – stopped Grimsby reaching Wembley. Their first Cup run took place the season after they had finished fifth, the club’s highest-ever league position.

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