Paul Mariner: The striker who played leading role in Ipswich’s golden era

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Paul Mariner, who has died at the age of 68 after a short battle with brain cancer, was a strong and composed centre forward who won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup with Ipswich and represented England at the 1982 World Cup.

A key figure in a golden era at Portman Road in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mariner scored 135 goals in 339 appearances for Town, while his other clubs included Plymouth, Arsenal and Portsmouth. He earned 35 England caps and scored 13 times for his country.

Born in Bolton on May 22, 1953, Mariner first caught the eye as a youngster with Plymouth, a club he would later briefly manage.

Mariner won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup with Ipswich
Mariner won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup with Ipswich (PA)

Tall, athletic and powerful in the air, he scored 61 goals in 155 appearances for the Pilgrims after signing from non-League Chorley at the age of 19 in 1973.

He helped the club win promotion to the Second Division in 1975 but left for Bobby Robson’s Ipswich, then one of the strongest sides in the First Division, for £220,000 the following year.

He thrived in Robson’s side and was called up by England within six months of his move to the Suffolk club, making his debut as a substitute in a 5-0 win over Luxembourg in March 1977. He scored his first international goal against the same opponents later that year.

Glory followed in 1978 as Ipswich won the FA Cup, beating Arsenal 1-0 in the final at Wembley. Mariner did not get on the scoresheet but did hit the woodwork.

Mariner scored 13 goals in 35 appearances for England
Mariner scored 13 goals in 35 appearances for England (PA)

His goals helped the club to UEFA Cup success three years later. He struck three times across both legs of the quarter-final victory over St Etienne and was again on target in the first leg of the final against AZ Alkmaar. Ipswich won 3-0 and held on to take the tie 5-4 on aggregate.

He became a national hero when his winning goal against Hungary – a fortuitous deflection off a mis-hit Mark Hateley shot – secured England’s qualification for the 1982 World Cup. It was their first involvement in the tournament since 1970. He went on to score in the opening group win over France.

He joined Arsenal in 1984 and made an immediate impact with a goal against Nottingham Forest in his second game and followed up with a brace against former club Ipswich.

Mariner, on his knees, after scoring the goal against Hungary that took England to the 1982 World Cup
Mariner, on his knees, after scoring the goal against Hungary that took England to the 1982 World Cup (PA)

He also proved his versatility by filling in in midfield and as an emergency centre-back for Gunners, but injuries prevented him firmly establishing himself at Highbury.

He later played for Portsmouth, Wollongong City, Albany Capitals and San Francisco Bay before retiring in 1993.

He moved into coaching and worked in the United States, including with MLS side New England Revolution, before taking up a role at Plymouth.

He took over as manager at Home Park following the departure of Paul Sturrock in 2009 but could not prevent relegation from the Championship and reverted to his previous backroom role. He later managed Toronto FC and also worked as a media pundit in the UK and US.

He is survived by his three sons George, Dan and Joe, his partner Val and mother Peggy.

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