Foxes A to Z, Mark Wallington, a record breaking goalkeeper and Leicester City club legend

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Faced with the initially daunting and thankless task of succeeding Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton between the Leicester City posts, Mark more than made up for a comparative lack of charismatic flair by dint of a dogged consistency and willingness to work at the raw edges of his game, eventually building a monumental club record for consecutive appearances as testament to his awesome reliability.

He was very much a goalkeeping tyro when bough for £30.000 from Walsall by Jimmy Bloomfield as cover for Peter Shilton. Shilton has in a recent interview honestly confessed that he was the one “scouting” Mark as he traveled to watch him in a game at Walsall and giving Bloomfield his thumbs up on a transfer.

Mark had only played 11 league games for The Saddlers but having impressed mightily with a spectacular televised performance in a Cup tie at Everton. Indeed, for several seasons he continued to learn his trade while very much in the England keeper’s shadow, only stepping up for an extended first team run at the beginning of the 1974-75, when Shilton’s determination to move was becoming irresistible.

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It was ironic that Mark should suffer injury only weeks after his predesessor’s sale to Stoke, for his return to the fray in the Third Round FA Cup tie with Oxford in January 1975 became the start of a run in which he was again absent until March 1982, a spell of 294 league games, 22 FA Cup encounters and 15 League Cup ties (331 senior games in all).

During this time he had added two England Under 23 caps to his haul of schools and amateur youth honors, experienced two relegation seasons and one 2nd Division championship, and become one of the select band of goalkeeper captains in League football, while one of his more remarkable aspects of his unbroken run of appearances was that he’d actually been preventing from training for several years in the middle of his career by a skin affection.

Even after a sickening collision with Shrewbury’s Chic Bates had sidelined Mark for the first time in years, he came back to tot up another invaluable ever present contribution to City’s 1983 promotion season (picking up a deserved testimonial on the way), to see of the imported challenge of Mark Grew, whilst briefly in content dispute with the club, and fianlly to be displaced from the City six yard box only by the youthful promise of Ian Andrews.

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Mutterings about the veteran’s apparent loss of sharpness prompted as much by superficial judgements about thinning hair and widening girth as by genuine signs of creakiness were still proven somewhat premature, though, as his rearguard experience materially assisted new club Derby County to successive promotions from the Third to the First Division in the two years following his £25.000 transfer. It was hardly apt reward, then, when Mark subsequently found himself once more stuck in reserve behind Peter Shilton at The Baseball Ground.

A return to his native county coincided with The Red Imps return to League football, following their one year exits in the GM Vauxhall Conference, and retirement. Three years later, only came after a career of 577 League games, Mark briefly acted as a specialist goalkeeping coach at Everton, then took up a coaching appointment with Lincolnshire FA. A week after his 42nd birthday, he answered an emergency call to turn out in the Beazer Homes League for Grantham.

FACTFILE:

  • Full Name: Francis Mark Wallington
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Date of Birth: 17.09.1952
  • Birthplace: Sleaford
  • Nation: England
  • Caps / Goals: –
  • Major League Career:
    • 1971-72, Walsall (11/0)
    • 1972-84, Leicester City (412/0)
    • 1984-88, Derby County (67/0)
    • 1988-91, Lincoln City (87/0)
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