The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Oh to be in Bideford not that Town are there

18 July 2017

Basque Diary writes: So, we have a midweek diary to write on a Tuesday in the middle of July. What do we know? In the last week we've signed Killip and Cardwell. Neither player had enough opportunity (Killip v Scunny yoof), or time (Cardwell versus Barnsleh), to give any real indication of their ability in the latest 180 minutes of Grimsby Town-tinted football.

The upshot is that we go into our Devonian tour unbeaten and with a striker – Cardwell – on four goals in five games. Tonight we play Bideford AFC. They play in the Southern League Division One South and West which is at step four on the pyramid, the same level Clee Town will be plying their trade at next season. Bideford were champions of their division in 2011-12.

Andrew Boyce must be fed up of Blundell Park. The Findus keeps batting its eyelashes and Boycey keeps getting farmed out, this time to Eastleigh.

The programme covering our pre-season matches is lovely and a credit to the volunteers who devote their time to it.

What we are looking at here is a no-news day in the life of a Mariners supporter. The majority of you already know everything I have reported so far, which means I'll have to bore you with something else.

The Football League Trophy groups have recently been announced and certain people at yon end of the A46 have expressed enthusiasm for the revamped competition.

As someone who has had the privilege to live for seven years on the continent – where B teams are the norm – I feel compelled to comment on my experience of supporting teams faced with this plague.

For the last two years I have been living in Bilbao in the Basque Country, following Santutxu, a team in the Spanish league's fourth tier. The fourth tier in Spain is divided into 18 groups across the different Spanish regions, and several groups contain several B teams.

In 2016-17, group IV – the group covering the Basque Country – contained CD Vitoria (Eibar B), Alavés B, Baskonia (Athletic Club C) and Real Sociedad C. Four of the twenty teams in the division were development squads.

"Ooooh", says the man on Scorer Street, "I might see the next Xabi Alonso."

This is of course true, but the reality is that games against these sides carry low interest. The gates for these matches versus 'filials' are lower because they don't bring support to matches (other than players' friends and families), so the atmosphere is non-existent and the intensity is never quite the same on the pitch. These clubs take over smaller ones for their own benefit.

The result of this is that few people support Santutxu as their only club, like we support Town; they support Athletic Club as well. In fact, Athletic Club are more important, as the fixtures are staggered so that, most of the time, Athletic Club's fixtures don't clash with Santutxu's. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Santutxu FC celebrate their centenary next year. They are a genuine football club living in the imposing shadow of another. Don't let that happen to the Mariners – or Lincoln City, or Rochdale, or Barnet, or anyone else – by attending a Football League Trophy match. Support the history of your club, of our game, by continuing the boycott no matter who you follow.