Cod Almighty | Article
by Pat Bell
24 March 2004
Did you ever wonder how Town fans take such perverse pleasure in misery?
There is method in it. The table tells the tale: seven post-war relegations and just one promotion under Labour; seven promotions under the Tories. There is no room for doubt. Grimsby Town are better off under the Conservatives. A Town slump offers the assurance that we are keeping out the Tories. Soaring unemployment under the Tories sends Town soaring up the league. (You'll already have gathered that I assume a Tory government to be a bad thing, so if you are a Conservative stop reading now; this article isn't for you.)
|May 1929||Labour||1928/29||Promoted to Division 1|
|Oct 1931||National/Conservative||1931/32||Relegated to Division 2|
|1933/34||Division 2 champions|
|July 1945||Labour||1947/48||Relegated to Division 2|
|Feb 1950||1950/51||Relegated to Division 3N|
|May 1955||1955/56||Division 3N champions|
|1958/59||Relegated to Division 3|
|Oct 1959||1961/62||Promoted to Division 2|
|Oct 1964||Labour||1964/65||Relegated to Division 3|
|Mar 1966||1967/68||Relegated to Division 4|
|June 1970||Conservative||1971/72||Division 4 champions|
|Oct 1974||1976/77||Relegated to Division 4|
|May 1979||Conservative||1978/79||Promoted to Division 3|
|1979/80||Division 3 champions|
|June 1987||1986/87||Relegated to Division 3|
|1987/88||Relegated to Division 4|
|1989/90||Promoted to Division 3|
|1990/91||Promoted to Division 2|
|April 1992||1991/92||Division 2 renamed Division 1|
|May 1997||Labour||1996/97||Relegated to Division 2|
|1997/98||Promoted to Division 1|
|2002/03||Relegated to Division 2|
It was not always like this. The Mariners' return to Division One in 1929 coincided with the second Labour government, and their relegation with Ramsay MacDonald splitting the Labour Party to make a coalition with the Conservatives. Perhaps Grimsby footballers decided there and then that they would never trust Labour again. The 1931 election established a period of Tory dominance, coinciding with the most successful period in Grimsby's history.
In July 1945, Labour was elected with its first working majority. In 1947, Grimsby celebrated the creation of the National Health Service by losing their place in the first division. In 1950, three months after Labour achieved a record share of the vote, the Mariners were in the third division (north), relegated twice under Labour.
In the 1950s, Britain "had never had it so good". Grimsby had had it better, wobbling about between Divisions Two, Three and Three (north) under successive Tory governments, but it could have been worse. Under Labour, it got worse. They went into the 1964 season in the second division. The white heat of the technological revolution brought a Labour government - and Town's relegation.
In 1966 Harold Wilson won a bigger majority. The promise of a Humber Bridge could hardly offset a second relegation, giving us our first taste of fourth division football. Don't get me started on Harold Wilson's claim that Labour lost the 1970 election because of England's World Cup quarter final defeat; it's a convenient excuse but ignores swings away from Labour in Scotland and Wales.
Edward Heath's three-day week saw Grimsby on the rise once more, as fourth division champions in 1972, but when in 1974 he asked: "Who governs?" and the country answered: "Not you," the revival ebbed. In 1977 we were back in Division Four.
Many of us have attributed what happened next to Grimsby's youth policy, to John Newman and George Kerr or Joe Waters. By now you'll have realised that the real saviour was Marga... no, I can't write it. Let's just say that in May 1979, the Tories were returned to power and Grimsby won promotion. A year later, the Mariners were third division champions.
The 1983 election saw Town well established in Division Two. Things went awry in the run up to the 1987 poll as Town embarked on consecutive relegations, proving only that Mike Lyons is a greater force for evil than the Conservative Party. Besides, by 1991 we were back: comfort for those who can't bear to acknowledge his role that deeper, taller, and more hairy historical forces than Alan Buckley were at work. In April 1992 it seemed certain that Neil Kinnock would become Prime Minister and that Grimsby were going down. By May John Major was as much in charge of the country as he had ever been, and the Mariners were in the shiny new first division.
Five years on, as the Tory party collapsed into the arms of a nation grateful to get rid of them, Grimsby subsided, unnoticed, into Division Two. As the nation stayed up for Portillo, we went down. Admittedly, our stay in Division Two was brief, and ended with twin trips to the Twin Towers. This tells you most of what you need to know about Tony Blair. The Mariners spent a few years trying to figure him out, dourly preserving our first division status for a few years before deciding that yes, it really is a Labour government, and getting relegated.
However, we may have Labour-supporting footballers in our ranks. While we've been trying to lay the blame for our atrocious form on the board or the manager, perhaps the players have read the papers and concluded that only relegation can save Tony Blair. The more dodgy his statements on Iraq, the more dodgy our defence becomes, to save the country from Michael Howard. Is a midfield of Lamont, Howard, Widdecombe and Portillo the only way to get players to play for the badge (a blue torch rather than three fish)? Perhaps not, but at least there might be a glimmer of pleasure in watching them getting kicked off the pitch.