He Feared No One
Pete Bradshaw takes a look at past player profiles, starting with Tony Geidmintis
Bob Hope won an Oscar for singing Thanks for the Memory. I doubt that was why Tony Geidminitis identified him in 1977 as the person he would most like to meet, but certainly the full-back left me with many good memories. In a team that often capitulated, especially away from home, he was never one to shirk responsibilities – or irresponsibilities, his reckless tackling getting him sent off against both Bournemouth and Huddersfield in the same season. Two dismissals were unheard of in those days and he became the first in yellow to ‘achieve’ that feat.
The reference to Bob Hope comes from his ‘pen picture’ in the programme of 4 April 1977 v Workington. These player spotlights were, and remain, a very common feature of matchday programmes. They give an insight into the player but also, looking back, an insight into the times.
Geidmintis admired Bob Hope but when asked who his favourite player and most feared opponent were he showed that he didn’t admire many other footballers. He chose one Jimmy Morse as his favourite, a name that appears in no recorded League squads of any club. Maybe it was a mate of his? And as for the most feared he replied “No one in Division 4”. Not for him the hero worship of other players. You can’t imagine him swapping shirts.
One thing that is very striking is the ambitions section. If he hadn’t been a footballer he didn’t know what he would have done. But he longed to own his own house. Here’s someone with over a decade of professional football behind him but who couldn’t afford a house. That is unimaginable today in the era of seven-figure annual salaries – as would be a footballer driving the equivalent of a Triumph 1300 (a Kia Picanto, perhaps, but less reliable?)
I’ve always remembered Geidmintis fondly despite his short stay at Vicarage Road. You would have thought his commitment and ‘pie and mash’ no-nonsense style, to borrow from his favourite food, might have suited Graham Taylor at first but perhaps he was just too rough a diamond. He left after the 6-0 drubbing of Doncaster Rovers and continued to play elsewhere for another couple of years.
Sadly he never achieved his ambition of reaching 36 while still playing league football, hanging up his boots at 31 due to a heart condition, which also caused his death at the tragically young age of 43 while still involved in the game as a scout.
I like to think of him visiting Hornet Heaven from his Workington afterlife, and wonder what he would make of today’s wing-backs and lack of physical play. I suspect he’d get on with José Holebas though.
As a footnote it is interesting that his youth and early first-team days at Workington would have coincided with Ken Furphy and Keith Burkinshaw being player-managers, making his debut a month after Burkinshaw was replaced by George Aitken. He learnt from three of the best lower league full-backs, and it showed.