The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

A time to dream, and to remember

6 June 2017

Elsewhere, Russell Slade is "looking to aim high". If Paul Hurst was still in charge, he'd surely have qualified that still further: "If we keep our shape, there's no reason we can't have a good think about looking to aim high." Marcus Bignot would probably have been both more and less circumspect: "We'll be aiming high, in 2019."

It's a time for dreaming, and remembering. Ron Counte has been doing quite a lot of both. This morning he offered his appraisal of Paul Hurst. You've been reacting to his two earlier articles. Joel Wheatley is taken with his vision of a Grimsby past which did not involve Brian Laws twatting Ivano: "Fire up the DeLorean, Marty! I want to go back and make that version of reality happen!"

John England also remembers the night the crowd changed ends:

Great article by Ron Counte on the Mariners' victory against Rochdale in March 1979. I remember it well – in fact it's one of my fondest memories of that great Town side.

My friend Bill and I were late getting to the game due to bad weather and as we reached the turnstiles we heard a cheer. "Oh, we must have scored already!" I exclaimed, as we hurried to take our seats just as Rochdale scored again to make it an unbelievable 2-0 to the home side with minutes on the clock. We needn't have worried, of course, because over the next 85 minutes Town scored five without reply. What a game and what a team. Promotion two months later to Division Three (now laughably called League One) and then a further promotion as champions.

Happy days indeed. Can we have the same again please?

That game also inspired some reminiscences on the Fishy. There is a habit of mind some people have to deride the crowd. It's an attitude that makes How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won The FA Cup the most obnoxious sporting novel Middle-Aged Diary has read; it was clearly written by someone who didn't like football, and didn't know or like many urban-dwelling people either. It is a snobbery neatly skewered in an old novel I happened to be re-reading the other day: "First you take their faces from 'em by calling them masses, and then you accuse them of not having any faces."

A decent football crowd – it could be a few dozen or a few thousand – happens because people's individuality is expressed in and through the collective. The day Jim Dobbin beat Newcastle, we all celebrated and we all remember. But we remember in different ways. That's why goal celebration music – in its attempt to choreograph the spontaneous – is anathema. A football game is a mass event, but it is the individual memories of that event that make it truly popular. 

You can't get much more popular than Town winning at Wembley, of course. Like Irregular Diary, we all think about the Mariners even when there is no actual live action to engage us. (Only "every day", Irregular? Be honest – at least every hour, surely?) So here is a pleasant way to wile June away. Let's compile the Wembley XI – the players who have put in the best personal performance, in each position, out of our seven Wembley appearances. One rule – we are not appraising the player but a particular performance. No cheating and saying well, Groves played well in both 1998 games, so he goes in midfield; it is a particular performance in a particular match we are after.

There's too much to go through in one diary, so I invite my fellow diarists – and indeed you – to join in, but I will fill in the first two positions.

Had it not been at Cardiff, and had it changed the course of the game, Steve Mildenhall's penalty save might have been enough to get him in the team. But the most memorable moment of the winning goalkeeper's performance – the exception that proves the rule – is when it started to go wrong. With a few minutes to go in the play-off final against Northampton, Aidan Davison came for a cross, took a bang and stayed down. When he got back to his feet, he was jittery. So were we. Suddenly he and we looked troubled on the couple of late balls into the box that the Cobblers managed as they tried to level the scores. Those couple of crosses stand out in the memory because Davison had dealt with all the others so commandingly, so efficiently for the previous 85 minutes.

The right back position is a piece of fruit so low-hanging as to be virtually a potato. How paradoxical, how right, that in a long career of unobtrusive excellence, when we finally gave him the grandest stage of all, John McDermott should turn in a performance of conspicuous brilliance. After a subdued first half, we were too much for Bournemouth in the second. First Macca on the overlap, taking the return pass to deliver a tormenting cross from near the corner flag to the far post and so the equalising goal.

Then Macca cutting inside and shooting from 25 yards. He never scored tap-ins. If Macca scored, it was a goal you weren't going to forget. This shot curved away from the Bournemouth keeper, heading for the inside side netting. It was pushed away. If it had gone in, we'd have been denied the golden goal, but had Macca capped a man-of-the-match performance with a stunning winning goal, we'd not have been complaining.

So here's our Wembley XI so far:

  • Goalkeeper: Aidan Davison (v Northampton, 1998)
  • Right back: John McDermott (v Bournemouth, 1998)
  • Left back:
  • Central defender:
  • Central defender:
  • Midfield:
  • Midfield:
  • Right winger:
  • Left winger:
  • Striker:
  • Striker:

Those are some inviting gaps for you to fill.