Monday 18 September 2006
Grieves is the word
Completing a hat-trick of early season interviews, Graham Stacey ventures into the AFC Wimbledon dressing room to catch up with the fans' new favourite Darren Grieves.
He may be a Watford-based postman by day, but one could be forgiven for believing that Grieves has a nifty sideline in Hollywood movie script editing. Certainly, for the 1,966 who witnessed his 88th minute winner against Horsham, it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility that he had contrived the whole thing from the comfort of his armchair before going on to play it out at the Meadow of Kings.
The story goes like this: following on from his midweek winner against Hastings, Grieves brings his four-year-old son to see his first ever football match. Coming off the bench with ten minutes left to play, Grieves inspires the side into a final flourish, starts a move on the halfway line and races upfield to bullet a header past the Horsham keeper to send the crowd delirious, and the Dons through to the next round of the FA Cup. Grieves said: ?Yeah, it wasn't a bad day for me. I thought I did okay in the week so I was hoping I'd get some gametime today and it seemed like a good chance to bring my son to his first match. He's only four and he's too young to know what's going on really, but I think he's enjoyed himself.?
Scoring a late goal at Kingsmeadow isn't new to Grieves ? he first did it playing against the Dons last season. He said: ?That was with East Thurrock and was my first game here. I played quite well that day and scored the first of our two goals. But on that occasion it was Frankie who got the winner in the last minute - it feels a lot better this way round!
?But I just couldn't forget the whole experience of playing in front of that crowd. I know Michael Woolner and Stig [Luke Garrard] quite well and I asked them about the possibility of coming here, then Dave gave me a call at the end of the season and I jumped at the chance.?
Twenty-nine year-old Grieves has had to bide his time on the bench, with competition for places up front as stiff as it has ever been at the Dons. He said: ?It's a bit frustrating but, fair play to Dave, I had a bit of a groin strain in pre-season and it's taken me a while to be 100%. Dave brought Scott in, and we've also got Barney, Richard Butler and Roscoe, so competition is fierce. But I always knew I'd have to fight for my place and that is what I'm doing. We've got a lot of quality here and, while I want to play regularly, you've got to have competition for places at a club like this.?
Grieves' roll call of former clubs reads like a who's who of non-league, with Yeading, Aylesbury, Chesham and Hemel Hempstead all included, among others. But how do the Dons size up? Grieves said: ?You just can't compare this place with anyone else. The whole set-up is just so much more professional ? both on and off the field. The coaching is different class and, from a personal level, it's nice to have a bit of support. Last season I came here with East Thurrock and played in front of a few thousand. Days later we played Fisher and we got something like 50. That tells you everything - it's a different world, and I feel very lucky to have this opportunity at my age.?
Despite a solid start to his Dons career, Grieves wants more. He said: ?I really want us to go up this year, and we've got to be looking at a couple of cup runs as well. I hear we're entered in quite a few this season, so we must be able to do something in one or two of them at least!
?On a personal level, I'm hoping for 15-20 goals this season. I know I'm going to have to work hard and fight to get into the side and keep my place, but that's exactly what I'm trying to do now and that's what I intend to continue to do.?
With two winners in a week, Grievesy already looks to be earning cult status amongst the fans ? a sure sign being the two nicknames he's already picked up and the terrace chant he first heard following his Horsham goal: 'Darren Grieves, Darren Grieves, he's got no hair but we don't care, Darren, Darren Grieves'.
Grieves said: ?I heard them chanting that and someone told me after the game that it was the song they used to sing for Alan Cork. I know who Alan Cork is, so that's really nice to hear.?
As for the nicknames, Grieves explains: ?Well Trevor [Williams, club secretary] started calling me 'Unlucky Grievesy'. For a while it seemed as though whatever I did the ball wouldn't go in. He started saying 'unlucky Grievesy' when I came off ? then he started saying it before I went on, and it just stuck. I think he'll have to change it now though!
?The other one came from JT who calls me and a few of the others, like Speedo, 'the Uglies'. When we came in for a team photo I heard he was going to bring in some paper bags to stick over our heads, so I got in there before him and brought a Freddie Kruger mask!?
To round off a pretty good week, Grieves was voted Man of the Match following the Horsham game ? and took to the stage in his mask, much to the amusement of fans and his fellow players. With his son joining him as he collected his champagne, it must have rounded off a pretty decent day. How did that rate for the effervescent Grieves? ?Definitely a ten out of ten, no doubt about it? he says. ?And not bad for ten minutes work!?
Now that Grieves lightning has struck twice, we're certainly hoping that plenty more Ryman defenders will be thunder his spell in the season ahead.