Danilo Orsi traces his rise from playing in front of 87 fans to playing in the FA Cup quarter-finals with Grimsby
Despite growing up in landlocked North London, Grimsby Town striker Danilo Orsi enjoys being by the sea.
After five years of playing academy and collegiate football in Florida, he now wants to make history with the Mariners after waiting until 25 to land his first pro contract.
In keeping with the nautical theme, the League Two underdogs defeated Premier League opponents at the Port of Southampton this month and will reach Wembley today if they can upset Brighton, home of the English Channel’s most famous pier.
“The whole thing was surreal. Absolutely insane,” says Orsi, who had his first FA Cup experience for Cockfosters at Waltham Abbey in front of 87 spectators.
“The Grimsby boys had our Christmas party in Newcastle the weekend of the World Cup final and we were all in our jumpers supporting Argentina,” he says.
Grimsby Town play Brighton for a place in the FA Cup semi-finals at the Amex on Sunday
Striker Danilo Orsi (centre) received his first professional contract after joining the club last year
Orsi is looking forward to playing alongside world champion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister
“If you had told us, we would have played one of the winners [Brighton’s Alex Mc Allister] we wouldn’t have believed it. He has the medal and Messi in his phone contacts and we will share a pitch with him.
“Four and a half thousand of our fans went to Southampton and you couldn’t hear their supporters. In Brighton it will be the same thought process, enjoy the day.’
ORSI’S GUIDE TO HIS TEAMMATES
MAX CROCOMBE (goalkeeper)
Max is the king of poker on the carriage. He owns the table, the cards and the chips. It came in handy when we had a six and a half hour drive back from Southampton after the final lap.
MICHEE EFÉTE (defender)
If anyone gives him the stick, he’s happy to mention he’s played with the likes of James Maddison for Norwich! Another southerner like me.
LUKE WATERFALL (Defender)
He reached the quarterfinals with Lincoln a few years ago, so his standard line to the rest of the boys is, “Oh, is this your first time?”
NIALL MAHER (defender)
Naz, as we call him, is one of my roommates. He’s the class clown, maybe not always at the right time! We look at the F1 series Drive to Survive. We are both Lewis Hamilton fans.
JOSH EMMANUEL (defender)
Was loaned out by Hull in January after overcoming health problems. You can see he has quality as he’s played higher up.
GAVAN HOLOHAN (midfielder)
Scored both penalties in our win at Southampton. We had missed one in a game before so the gaffer said “Gav you take the next one”. He’s one of our more experienced players.
ALEX HUNT (midfielder)
Been on and off the team but a true technical player and at 22 has a bright future ahead of him. I think he could keep playing at a higher level.
ANTHONY DRISCOLL-GLENNON (midfielder)
It’s me, Glenno and Naz: the three bandits or whatever people nickname us now. Came through the academy in Liverpool so he has the pedigree.
JOHN McATEE (forward)
Fantastic last year, moved to Luton, had shoulder surgery and came back on loan. At 23, the best is yet to come.
I, DANILO ORSI (forward)
The life lessons I learned when I went to America at 18 definitely helped me. I am of Italian descent, my father Gianluigi was born in Parma but came to England when he was four years old.
HARRY CLIFTON (midfielder)
“One of us,” as Grimsby fans would say. Came through the ranks playing 200 games for the club. There’s a TV clip of a four-year-old Cliffy being interviewed as a fan at Blundell Park.
Grimsby’s journey is astounding, the first fourth division side to reach the quarter-finals since Cambridge 1990 and the club’s first appearance at this stage since 1939. But Orsi, who won the crucial penalty at St Mary’s after being passed by a Saints defender Duje Caleta-Car has an equally remarkable history with no realistic prospects as a teenager to become a professional footballer.
“I was 18 and about to start a career in IT when a buddy James called me and said one of our old coaches was in Tampa looking for some young players to play in a tournament for six weeks could. ‘ he says.
“Mum said to go and see that the world is bigger than Barnet. The first day it was hot weather, pool, girls walked along the beach. The day after we played our first game and ended up winning the tournament for Chivas Academy. They asked us to stay for five months, pay for board and rations.’
After a brief return to England where he coached with Watford under their new youth coach Harry Kewell, Orsi returned to Florida and landed a place at Eastern Florida College near Orlando where he studied business administration and played for their football team.
“I spent a lot of time at the beach. Everyone did that,” he says with a smile. Coco Beach, Sarasota, Melbourne. The beach was five minutes from the college; white sand, palm trees, barbecues where you dig a huge hole in the sand and light a fire. It was like I had seen in all the movies.
“I tried everything, beach volleyball, jet skiing. I found surfing a bit more difficult. If you had asked me as a schoolboy in London if you were going to spend the next few years on the beach, I would have said, ‘Fine! That will not do”.
‘But even now I live in Cleethorpes, there are no palm trees there, but it’s really pretty. People who haven’t been there don’t know. I open the window and the beach is there. They have food markets in the summer. The haddock is world famous. I once made the mistake of going to a takeaway and asking for cod! They gave me a funny look, said they only serve haddock.
“The day I signed, I took my grandfather to Papa’s, a well-known fish and chip place. It was delicious. In Florida we ate grouper, it was their local specialty.”
Orsi returned to England in his early 20s and completed the non-league circuit until his breakthrough season, scoring 21 goals for Maidenhead in which he signed for League Two Harrogate in 2021.
“Signing a full-time contract at 25 on the dotted line was the moment all my hard work and struggle paid off,” says Orsi, who turns 27 next month. “My family was even more excited than me. Their support has been incredible and my mum Sylvia still comes by every week to watch me play.
“Grimsby had tried to sign me in the National League but the gaffer [Paul Hurst] understood that I could not turn down the chance to play in the EFL. I liked the way he worked, we stayed in touch and I moved last summer.”
The magic of the FA Cup has worked for Grimsby from the first round in November. “We’ve been underdogs in every round and we’ve beaten five teams from higher leagues, I don’t think that’s ever happened before,” says Orsi. “Our first game against Plymouth was incredible. They were huge in League One and all four of our forwards were injured. They scored first and then we went nuts; 4-1 at half-time and 5-1 at the end.”
After defeating League One duo Cambridge and Burton and beating Championship Luton after a replay, Grimsby went to Southampton and recorded an impressive 2-1 result.
Orsi scored a win over championship side Luton in the FA Cup fourth round replay
Orsi, as a lone striker, won the second of Gavan Holohan’s penalties.
“From the first minute their defenders moaned about me going for a header or leaning in. They just wanted things on their terms,” says Orsi. “Lyanco beat me once so I knew Caleta-Car would try something.
“We held on, I tried to turn around and felt a hit on my back. It was a sting like being hit by a slipper. I went down and heard the referee blow. I expected him to bring us together and say, ‘That’s enough’, but he gave the penalty.”
Brighton stopper Lewis Dunk may be better qualified to deal with the physical threat of League Two but Orsi is hoping they play a strong team and is looking forward to ‘Inflatable Wars’ which will see home fans throw plastic Buy seagulls to take on the thousands of Harry Haddocks who have been brought down from North Lincolnshire.
“You want to test yourself. Whoever we face, we won’t leave anything out there,” says Orsi.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-11876853/Danilo-Orsi-charts-rise-playing-87-fans-FA-Cup-quarter-finals-Grimsby.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Danilo Orsi traces his rise from playing in front of 87 fans to playing in the FA Cup quarter-finals with Grimsby