The carrier

Cod Almighty | Article

by Ron Counte

22 November 2017

Not only can you not take the Grimsby out of the person, but that person is likely to spread Grimsby wherever they go. Ron reveals all

If obsession with Grimsby Town is a disease, I'm a carrier. I freely admit to having infected dozens of innocent individuals over the years, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes deliberately. The bad news is that there is no cure for the ailment.

I am an exile all my adult life, having left Grimsby at 18. Since then I have lived in Yorkshire, London, Wales, and the midlands. In my professional life I have travelled widely in Europe and beyond, and have many friends in far-flung territories. Accordingly I have left a trail of otherwise sane human beings, with no link at all to the Grimsby area, hopelessly condemned to forever seek out our results. It becomes an itch that can never fully be scratched.

It's a strange phenomenon, but in my experience people who have briefly come into regular contact with a football-obsessed Grimbarian seem never to be able to shake off a fascination with the club. I once had a girlfriend who worked in a children's home in Teddington. When asked by one of the kids in her care about her private life  she confessed that her boyfriend was a Grimsby Town supporter. Some days later, spotting the juvenile staring into space with a rather distracted air, she enquired as to what was troubling him. "Well, you know you said your boyfriend supported Grimsby Town," he began. "I can't stop thinking about it..."

Experience has shown me that this is a common reaction of the layperson to one who, rather than supporting Manchester United, Liverpool, or whoever happens to be top of the league that year, instead spends the entire time fretting about the exploits of the Mariners. My victims fall into two principal categories: the 'supporter' and the 'non-supporter'.

For the non-supporter, the Grimsby Town phenomenon is outside their normal scope. It's like bumping into a friend who confesses to an interest in crop circles

The first group comprises those who are interested in football generally, and who actively support their own team. Given our see-saw history, bouncing up and down the divisions like one of those 1970s power balls, there are very few teams who have not played us at some stage or another. So there is a good chance that the supporter will actually have seen Town play live. In these cases my presence seems to draw out and reinforce memories of these encounters.

For the non–supporter, the Grimsby Town phenomenon is outside their normal scope of experience or understanding. There is thus a fascination based initially on novelty, or even suspicion; it's rather like bumping into a friend who confesses to an interest in crop circles.

But soon, through repeated exposure, the hapless individuals find themselves inexplicably drawn to the affairs of this black-and-white cult, to the point where they will often initiate conversations about the fortunes of the club. It becomes an automatic reflex, a Pavlovian response to the sight of my inelegant bulk hoving into view.

Such is the novelty of knowing someone with my particular predilections that many of my associates assumed I was unique. It was bizarre enough knowing me, so the thought that there were more of my kind walking freely out there seemed rather far-fetched. When the Poojah rant achieved national exposure in the dark days of the Woods debacle, I received a number of calls from people who simply assumed that I must be the author. After I assured them that this was not the case, they immediately assumed that I must know Poojah's identity. Surely the circle of people sharing my obsession must be a very small and intimate one? Eventually it began to sink in that, far from being a one-off, I was in fact a member of the tribe suffering from this peculiar malady.

Now I have to say that, as with all evangelists, I have occasionally deliberately spread the word among the unenlightened, and have dragged many unsuspecting souls along to watch Town play. As can readily be imagined, anyone who has witnessed in the flesh a crunching Bob Cumming tackle, a deft Tony Rees back-heel, or a full-on Nigel Batch rant is unlikely ever to forget the experience.

As an exile I probably attend more away than home games and so my victims are exposed to the antics of our enthusiastic away support. Last year I had a reunion with two guys that I used to work with in London in the 1980s. Now Vince, Matt and I had not been together for over 25 years and yet, within a few minutes, it was Matt that started talking about the day I dragged them to see the epic FA Cup clash with Wimbledon. Obviously the sight of several thousand inflatable haddocks is one that would live long in the memory.

Vince now lives in the Philippines and Matt lives in Ireland but both admitted that they always look out for Town's results. A friend of mine who lives in New Zealand suffers a similar affliction. There are a number of lost souls living in mainland Europe who are similarly blighted. There is a corner of many a foreign field that is forever Blundell Park.

One nation appears immune. Try as I might, I just have not been able to foster the same level of interest from my US colleagues. The bottom line is that they are just not interested in football. Well, if David Beckham can't turn them on to football, it's hardly surprising that my puny efforts fail. It would be easy at this juncture to make some remarks about this collective failing, but as most of my friends are mortified by the national embarrassment that overtook them with the election of Trump, I will forgive them for this lapse; they are suffering enough at the moment.

But, those poor American souls apart, the simple fact is that once you have been exposed to the black-and-white mania your life is forever changed. You can never go back.

Who have you infected with Mariners-by-proxy syndrome?