Kevin Moore: Defensive stalwart for Southampton

 

Kevin Moore, who died on his 55th birthday from a rare form of dementia, was one of the most influential players in the history of Grimsby Town, performing mightily as the Mariners earned successive promotions in 1979 and '80 before emerging as a bulwark of the Southampton rearguard in the top tier of the English game.

A strapping centre-half and a magnificent all-round athlete, he is remembered most vividly for his aerial prowess, his titanic leaps in defence and attack becoming a spectacular trademark during a professional career which spanned 20 seasons and extended to more than 750 senior appearances.

Given his family background, it is hardly surprising that Moore made a living from football. His father Roy, his uncle Norman and his younger brothers Dave and Andy all played for Grimsby, for whom he rose through the junior ranks after arriving at Blundell Park straight from school in the summer of 1976.

So talented was the tall rookie that he went straight into the first team at left-back, making his entrance in a 3-0 home League Cup defeat by Sheffield Wednesday that August. By the end of the season, in which the Mariners were demoted to the basement division, Moore had established a regular position and he remained key to the team's fortunes for the next decade. He was still wearing the No 3 shirt and didn't miss a match as Johnny Newman's side earned promotion as runners-up to Reading in 1978-79, and he continued to patrol the left defensive flank as Grimsby, by then managed by George Kerr, lifted the Third Division title a year later.

During the 1980-81 season, in which they flirted with a third straight rise before settling for a creditable seventh place in the second grade, the muscular Moore switched to the central position he was to make his own for five years. Now he emerged as a natural leader, enjoying a spell as captain and looking particularly impressive in tandem with the Northern Ireland international Chris Nicholl in mid-decade. Invariably reliable at the back, a potent threat when sallying forward for set-pieces and ever the epitome of determination, he was cherished by Blundell Park regulars and seemed to be a fixture there.

However, early in 1987, with the team toiling under their new manager Mick Lyons and destined for demotion in the spring, Moore accepted a £100,000 transfer to Second Division high-fliers Oldham Athletic, having played 466 times for the Mariners and contributed 34 goals. But then, when the Latics missed out narrowly on promotion that season, he answered the call of Nicholl, his former defensive cohort now at the helm of First Division Southampton, who paid £125,000 for his services.

Moore, in his prime at 29, coped comfortably with the demands at the higher level, proving a consistent tower of strength alongside the likes of Kevin Bond, then Russell Osman and others, as the Saints maintained a solid presence, usually in mid-table. A highlight during his Dell sojourn came at Wembley in the final of the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1992. The game was lost 3-2 to Nottingham Forest, but Moore provided Southampton fans with an abiding memory by vaulting skywards to score with a tumultuous header, appearing to be above the crossbar when he made contact with the ball.

Though he was still a valuable asset, after four campaigns under Nicholl he did not play so regularly for the Ulsterman's successor, Ian Branfoot, who nevertheless clearly rated Moore highly. In July 1994, having spent two brief loan stints with Bristol Rovers, the defender dropped to the third tier with Fulham, where Branfoot had taken the reins.

There followed two campaigns in the fourth flight before retirement as a player in 1996, but by then Moore, a qualified quantity surveyor, had been appointed as safety officer at Craven Cottage. He became stadium manager in 1997, then later took charge of the club's training complex before working as a scaffold engineer at Fawley, Hampshire. In 2008 he was diagnosed with Pick's Disease, a cruelly debilitating condition which he fought with characteristic courage but which was to claim his life.

Ivan Ponting

Kevin Thomas Moore, footballer: born Grimsby 29 April 1958; played for Grimsby Town 1976-87, Oldham Athletic 1987, Southampton 1987-94, Bristol Rovers (on loan) 1992, Fulham 1994-96; married (two children); died Hampshire 29 April 2013.

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