Being Nemo: the misfortune of the exiled junior Mariner

Cod Almighty | Article

by Grant Maconachie

18 May 2016

For the children of exiled Mariners, Town's play-off final win was the day they finally did understand, says Grant

Two children on Wembley wayI just don't think you understand. How many times was it chanted last weekend in London? Whoever penned the ditty about the incredible relationship between Podge Amond and Paul Hurst probably only came across that phrase because it scanned, rhymed and suited its purpose. But ask any exiled Mariner which statement they most often reel off to their offspring, and I can guarantee that it is a fairly similar line. "I just don't think you understand" sits high on the list of the phrases we use and our kids never knew what it really meant.

In 1998, 18 long years ago, we last enjoyed the experience of genuinely being 'up the Mariners'. Back then we shared heady times, hopes, dreams and so much more. Little did we imagine that none of our children would get to experience it again; the children of Grimsby and the children of GTFC supporters far and wide.

Locals clearly don't have it easy: a desolate town, a decaying port, on the bottom edge of industrial and financial disparity. The only relief and release many get is the fortnightly, short trip to Blundell Park, where normality can be pushed aside and dreams vividly enjoyed and shared. 

Promised lands of gilt-edged stadia embossed with glamour and success. The grounds that the exiles, and their children, must shun

What realistic alternative do the residents of our home town have? Long journeys to promised lands of gilt-edged stadia embossed with glamour and success, loaded with talented individuals and teamwork that even FIFA and PES can't aspire to emulate. Excitement, enrichment and promise.

But these are the grounds, the clubs, the franchises that the exiles must shun, instead subjecting their precious offspring to disappointment, despair and disdain. Our children tug our heartstrings for a treat, a visit to places on their doorstep – Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, the Emirates, Anfield, the Etihad. Believe me, it's a long list – and even includes places like Elland Road. The venues that their classmates, their neighbours, friends and even family visit regularly.

The grown-up exiles justify the non-visits to such places in any way they can. "It's too expensive, son." Then filling the tank, or paying for trains or flights. "You can never get hold of tickets." Then exchanging calls and texts with old diehards to make arrangements. Passion, but to then endure a journey home of stony silence and dejection; and pride, backed up somewhat ironically with at least three hours of "never again". It's all wrapped up, like Ernie Beckett's fish and chips, in "I just don't think you understand".

They get ridiculed at school for following a bit-part, tinpot, non-League team, a bunch of no-hopers, part-timers. Their friends are disbelievers; they don't have schoolmates, neighbours, friends who also follow GTFC. They put up with it. They enjoy the banter at the games, they know the songs, the history and the passion – but do they know success? Never, not even close. And when it became a possibility, they didn't really expect it because they had been brought up to acknowledge that they just didn't understand.

Sunday changed so much. These kids now feel 12 feet tall. They saw their own parents in tears of joy, mixed with raw passion and belief. And now they chant the line they have heard so many times: I just don't think you understand. Now they do understand. They have the same pride, the same belief. And even though they weren't even born there, they have the same home.

What pain, and joy, have you put your children through – or been put through by your parents – in the name of Grimsby Town? Tell us about it.