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The good, the bad and the imbecile

Sam Mason was there at the City Ground for an evening with Big Norm.

Ben Radford/Getty Images

Matt Le Tissier stepped up to take 48 penalties in his career and scored 47. The man who saved that penalty on the 24th March 1993 was Mark Crossley or as he commonly known here as ‘Big Norm’.

Last night attended an evening with Big Norm himself and I have to say, it was a pleasure to listen to tales of yesteryear from a man who was mistaken for Paddy McGuiness a few weeks earlier in Mansfield. I’ve been to a few of these evenings down at the City Ground and I’ve enjoyed every single one, especially when you listen to the endless stories about Cloughie and his unique/genius management techniques. What I’ve noticed though is that not only does every player who’s had the honour of playing for ‘The Gaffer’ have not one single bad word to say about him but they all seem to have mastered impersonating him down to the last ‘young man’.

Mark opens with his not so honourable achievement (and popular pub quiz question) of scoring the first own goal in the Premier League. Making light of the situation he followed it up with "But what you have to remember is that back then players could still place bets and when you’re 3-1 down to Blackburn but you’ve had £20 on 4-1…" The Robin Hood Suite boomed with laughter and this set the tone for the night. Stories of Brian Clough calling Mark numerous nicknames such as shit’ouse, imbecile, Barnsley and his personal favourite ‘Jigsaw’ followed (Jigsaw - "Because every time the ball comes into the box Barnsley you fall to pieces) by the time Clough made him play in goal for his son's Sunday team and then finished with a touching story about Cloughie taking Big Norm's parents out for dinner on the day of his first team debut.

The highlight of the night in everyone’s eyes (measured by the volume of laughs) was Mr Crossley’s impression of Frank Clark losing his temper during Nottingham Forest’s 5-0 defeat to Manchester United away from home in April 1996. In the three years Mark was with Frank, he’d never seen him once get angry until this game. I’ve seen many players/mangers attempt to impersonate their colleagues and ex managers but this had to be the funniest I’ve seen in a long time. From the door slamming back into Frank as he entered the room in a fierce rage to Des Lyttle hiding the bottom half of his face with a towel because he was laughing at the usually calm man losing his temper. Mark explained earlier how much of a change the team went through from being managed by Clough and playing 5-a-side in training to going to Frank and having much more tactical training sessions.

Barnsley finished the night with a story about the NFFC legend Stuart Pearce crossing the line by advertising his family run business in the match programme. Cloughie had brought his wife’s - Margaret - iron for Psycho to fix in order to be picked for the team on the Saturday. At the time, Pearce was captain of England but Clough wasn’t fazed by this at all and wasn’t afraid to drop him. He made sure that all his players didn’t cross a line and that was a theme that echoed through Mark’s stories all evening.

If you ever get chance to go to an evening with Mark Crossley I highly recommend you do. If stories of the greatest manager to grace the footballing world and equally the greatest impression of Frank Clark (I’ve seen) is your thing then you’re in luck.

*****

Read more praise of Mark Crossley here.