I’m the UK’s oldest football fan – if Grimsby Town make it to the FA Cup final on my 101st birthday it’s the best gift ever

MOST retirees look forward to a telegram from the king and a birthday cake when they turn 100.

But Jack Hinchliffe had bigger fish to fry.

Jack with son Graham and his Grimsby Town honorary jersey from the club


Jack with son Graham and his Grimsby Town honorary jersey from the clubCredit: Richard Walker
Rain or shine, Jack has seen around 2,000 games at Grimsby Town


Rain or shine, Jack has seen around 2,000 games at Grimsby TownCredit: Richard Walker

He got the “best present” ever when his lover Grimsby town were promoted on the same day.

Now Jack hopes his 101st will be as lucky as the second division Lincolnshire overcome underdogs Premier League high flyers Brighton & Hove Albion in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Two more Town wins on their remarkable run and it would be a Wembley FA cup finale on June 3rd – the same weekend as Jack’s big day.

Jack joked: “I will live in hope or die in despair!

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“I don’t drink, but maybe I’ll open a bottle if we win.”

Oldest football fan

The Mariners’ staunch supporter is Grimsby’s – and possibly Britain’s oldest – footie fan and his passion for his club knows no bounds.

He has watched about 2,000 matches since he started following Grimsby in 1948 when he left the army after the WWII.

Rain or shine, Jack waved his scarf at every game until, at the age of 93, he finally stopped traveling across the country to go to away games.

He is too weak to travel to Brighton for Sunday’s cup tie, where Town face a team 76 places above them in the leagues, and will watch on TV instead.

The former fishmonger said: “I think we can do it. Why not? We’ve come this far.

“If we succeed Wembley the whole city will be emptied – and I definitely want to go.

Jack at Wembley with grandson Jayden in 2016


Jack at Wembley with grandson Jayden in 2016Credit: Richard Walker

Grimsby only regained full league status last year by winning the national play-offs after a potentially disastrous slump in the semi-professional National League.

But this season, the recovery continued with a remarkable and record-breaking run of five FA Cup games that saw teams higher up in the leagues beaten.

The last time they flew that high was in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1939, when they played in the First Division and lost 5-0 to Wolves in the semi-final.

Thousands of fans will take their iconic Harry the Haddock inflatable fish to the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton.

Mariners fans include comedian Lloyd Griffith, ex-child entertainer Timmy Mallett and occasionally ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson whose Grimsby Town pompom hat often pops up.

And the current Prime Minister Rishi Altar even threw himself behind the team after a fifth-round victory over his team Southampton.

He said: “I now have a new team to support in the cup.”

But local celebrity Jack is by far the fan favourite, and last year was the guest of honor at a ‘legends’ night where he was delighted to meet ex-goalie Nigel Batch, who played for Grimsby between 1976 and 1787.

The team also made Jack an honorary player with his own ‘Hinchliffe 100’ squad that he keeps on a pole in his living room.

Jack’s most exciting match to date was at Wembley in 2016 when his team beat Forest Green Rovers to return to the EFL.

A photo of him at the game with grandson Jayden, now 17, hangs proudly on his wall.

Even Boris has been spotted wearing a Grimsby hat while out running with his dog


Even Boris has been spotted wearing a Grimsby hat while out running with his dogCredit: Splash
Jack, about 50 years old, when he worked as a fishmonger in Grimsby


Jack, about 50 years old, when he worked as a fishmonger in GrimsbyCredit: Richard Walker

He said: “That was a great day.

“There was no one left on the streets of Grimsby because everyone was at the game.”

The father-of-two, grandfather-of-9 and great-grandfather of 11 became obsessed with Grimsby when he went to see them at Blundell Park, the 124-year-old stadium in Cleethorpes where Town still plays.

Cheerful, Jack makes sure to take a short walk on the crescent moon outside his house every day to make sure he’s fit enough to watch his team on the weekends.

“I don’t go to the weekday games because you have to pay extra and I already pay between £300 and £400 for my season ticket,” he says.

And speaking of money, he thinks today’s footballers earn way too much.

“They’re greedy,” he says. “You used to be paid per game and that was fair enough.

“But I think, as Greavsie once said ‘it’s a funny old game'”

Jack’s obsession with Grimsby began in 1939 when he left the Royal Engineers at the end of the war after taking part in grueling campaigns in France, Norway, Egypt and the Middle East.

He said, “I started going because it had to go somewhere. After the war there was not much to do – it was done.

“I was quite social, so a group of us started going.”

Jack, who had played football growing up in Filey, was in Grimsby laying cables for the Post Office and eventually stayed after falling in love with his first wife Joyce.

He said: “Joyce used to visit the landlady, me and another boy stayed with.

“I went to the Ritz cinema in Cleethorpes with a group of five including Joyce and when we got to the door only four were allowed in.

Jack with first wife Joyce, left, and second wife Kathleen


Jack with first wife Joyce, left, and second wife Kathleen
Jack, on the far left, led his own Haven Hotspurs team to victory in 1953


Jack, on the far left, led his own Haven Hotspurs team to victory in 1953Credit: Richard Walker

“We did everything we could and I took Joyce in. Then we walked all the way back to Grimsby fish market, about three miles, and talked the whole way.

“When I walked her home, her mother opened the door and said ‘bring that boy in’. I thought ‘eh, what’s going on here then’, but she came out with a washing-up bowl full of beetroot from her garden in front of me. I still love a beetroot sandwich.”

When Jack, then 19, and 18-year-old Joyce tied the knot, they started going to games together and when baby Robert, now 71, came along, he went too.

Sadly, Joyce died of liver failure at the age of 58.

He next married Kathleen, who died in 2004 aged 81, and had two children, taxi driver Graham, 57, and Sandra, 62, who were also “persuaded” to support the Mariners.

Sandra said: “Honestly, I’m not really into football, but it keeps Dad going and gives him something to talk about with other people.”

Granddaughter Seren Lucas, nine, has followed in her grandfather’s footsteps and joined a junior team.

Jack once managed his own football team Haven Hotspur FC, which won the 1953 third division championship

Despite being a huge Grimsby fan, Jack is not that interested in other clubs.

And he’s charmingly blunt when he talks about the world’s most famous players.

His favorites were Brazil sticker Firstwho passed away in December last year, and the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas.

He says: “I liked it George Best but then he got drunk and ruined the girls.

He saves a special mention to Raich Carter, a Hull City player, whom he helped beat Grimsby in 1949.

Granddaughter Seren made Grandpa proud by playing for Grimsby


Granddaughter Seren made Grandpa proud by playing for GrimsbyCredit: Richard Walker
Pele and Puskas are Jack's all-time favorite players


Pele and Puskas are Jack’s all-time favorite players

Carter, who had captained his hometown side Sunderland to a League Championship in 1936, was, says Jack, “the best player I had ever seen in those days.”

Jack, who has lived through five monarchs, has four caretakers to help, but is still sharp for his age, saying with a twinkle in his eye, “The oldest person in Britain is 108 and I’m going to beat them.”

Son Graham attributes his father’s longevity to his attitude.

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“You can come in and tell Dad the worst news and he’ll just say ‘ah, well’. He’s always been that way.”

While Jack may not make it to tomorrow’s game, Grimsby Town know their lucky mascot is right behind them.